Think you don’t have time to sort out your inbox? Think again!


I’ve lost count of how many people have told me over the years that their biggest source of stress and frustration is their inbox.

It is stressful though, isn’t it?

All those unread emails. Never quite sure whether there’s something important buried that you’ve forgotten about.

I know how it feels because that used to be me. I used to have thousands of emails in my inbox. As soon as I opened Outlook, the knot in my stomach intensified. I hated feeling out of control. I started checking my emails during the evenings and before I got to work in the mornings, thinking that would somehow help. Needless to say, it didn't (duh).

But trust me when I tell you that it is possible to get yourself out of this situation, and it’s not as difficult or time consuming as you might think. All you need is 15 minutes per day, a sprinkling of perseverance and to follow the steps below:

Step one:

Decide whether you’d like to do this as soon as you start work in the morning, or at the end of the day. To build the habit, it’s best to do this exercise at the same time every day if you can.

Step two:

At whatever time you choose, close the door, turn off your phone and set a timer for fifteen minutes.

Step three:

For those fifteen minutes you’re going to tidy up your inbox, starting at the bottom (so you’re tackling the oldest emails first) and working your way up. Starting with older emails means you’re less likely to get distracted by newer emails.

For each email, you have a decision to make. Choose from one of the following:

a) Delete

Use this option as often as you possibly can. Someone said ‘thank you’ for something? Hit delete. A string of emails to decide on a date for a meeting that happened three months ago? Delete.  Delete. Delete. The delete button is your friend. Make use of it!

b) Action needed

As you’re starting with the oldest emails first, chances are that the moment has now passed and things that needed action a year ago, are no longer relevant. But if action IS needed, unless it’s going to take less than 30 seconds, NOW IS NOT THE TIME! Flag the email in some way and move on to the next. You can return to anything requiring action later.

c) File/archive

File or archive anything that you need to keep but that doesn’t require action. You may need to create new email folders to put things into, but try and keep these to a minimum.

You’ll probably come across emails that contain information you need to read. Again, NOW IS NOT THE TIME! You can either flag those emails and return to them later, or file them in a ‘to read’ folder. If you choose the latter option, schedule time to look at that folder every week so that you don’t forget all about it!

d) Unsubscribe

If you have unopened or unhelpful emails from something you signed up for ages ago, open the email and hit ‘unsubscribe’. You’ll still need to do something with the emails already in your inbox, but at least you’ll stop the relentless flow of emails you’re never going to read!

The key to this is SPEED!

You’ll be surprised at how many emails you can remove from your inbox in just fifteen minutes, as long as you keep moving and try not to overthink it. Fifteen minutes every day over the space of a few weeks can make such a difference!

If you’re serious about reducing inbox overwhelm, give this a try and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

And of course, I’d love you to pass this on if you know someone who might find it useful.



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Louise MillerComment