Let me ask you a question — on a scale of great to overwhelmed, how do you feel about the number of emails in your inbox right now?
And we’re not just talking about the ones sitting directly in the inbox that you haven’t responded to, opened, or organized. We’re talking about all of them — the ones that are nice and organized, tucked away in folders that you haven’t touched for years.
Now how you feeling?
Not to brag or anything, but I’ve got inbox management down to a science. It’s one of the first things I address with all of my recurring clients and, nerdy as it sounds, it’s something I’ve become really passionate about because, as business owners, if your inbox isn’t organized and managed well, I can guarantee you’re losing potential clients, collaborations, and other incredible opportunities to grow your business.
There are a myriad of culprits in the fight for organization in an inbox, but the biggest one? Fear of the delete button.
Everyone’s reasons are different, but nearly every person I’ve talked to with a hot mess of an inbox has one thing in common — they never delete anything, so no matter how organized the inbox seems on the surface, finding a single email is often like searching for a needle in a haystack.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T BE AFRAID OF THE ‘DELETE’ BUTTON
Today, we’re gonna change the conversation and I’m gonna share with you exactly why you shouldn’t be afraid of the delete button and, in fact, it should be something you embrace!
ORGANIZED CLUTTER IS STILL CLUTTER
Three years ago, I started on a journey toward minimalism. It started with my closet, expanded to the rest of my home, and eventually bled over into my digital life — including my inbox.
Up until this point, my inbox was super organized, but I literally had emails from college that I didn’t even remember were still in there, so clearly I wasn’t going to be searching for them any time soon!
As someone who’s always been fairly organized in all aspects of my life — we’re talking color coded closets and labels galore — one statement completely shifted my perspective and set me free: organized clutter is still clutter.
It doesn’t matter how many labels you have, whether or not they’re color coded, or how well you keep up with your management system — if you don’t need it, it’s clutter, even if it’s tied up in a color coded bow.
Think about the number of emails that come into your inbox every day or week. Now think about the number of those emails that are actually important and you genuinely need to keep for your business.
And don’t you dare say they’re all important, because I know they aren’t!
When you realize what’s actually important and what isn’t, you’re able to delete without fear and actually keep that inbox organized and clutter free!
ACTION STEP #1
Watch your inbox for a week a keep a record of the kinds of emails that come in. At the end of the week, take a look at that list and ask yourself which of those emails are actually important and necessary, and which ones are just clutter.
YOU DON’T ACTUALLY NEED ALL THOSE NEWSLETTERS
I want to talk about newsletters separately for one important reason — they take up a ton of space in most people’s inboxes and most people think they’re more important than they are.
Like the majority of people, I’m subscribed to my fair share of newsletters because I like to follow different people and keep up with what’s going on. Since becoming a minimalist, however, the number of newsletters that actually get to stay in my inbox is a very different story.
Of the myriad of newsletters that pop up in my various inboxes every day, I keep maybe 5% of them. Maybe.
I know what you’re thinking — but Sarah, what if you want to keep the information?? What are you gonna do if you want to refer back to them??
I get it. I get that fear.
But riddle me this — if you’re keeping every newsletter, what are the chances you’re even going to be able to find what you’re looking for four years down the road when you’re looking for that one newsletter that talked about that one thing that one time? Especially if you keep it all in one generic folder for subscriptions, newsletters, or resources!
The reality is the number of full newsletters you actually need to keep is pretty dang small. And the rest of them? They’re just organized clutter.
ACTION STEP #2
While you’re watching your inbox for a week, take note of the newsletters you actually look forward to and read when they show up. Unsubscribe from any that you consistently archive and never read — don’t even give them the opportunity to show up in your inbox. For ones that require action, take that action immediately — download the thing, sign up for the webinar, etc. — then delete it!
For newsletters that have valuable content, or a really great phrase, pull an Ashlyn Carter and create a swipe file! Grab that sentence or paragraph or whatever it is that you really love and add it to a note on your phone, a Google Doc, an Evernote file, or a card on Trello. It’ll be so much easier to find if you’re only looking through the content that actually resonated with you instead of an entire inbox filled with countless newsletters!!
JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE SPACE DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD USE IT
Remember the early days of the iPhone, when you only had 8GB or 16GB of storage and unlimited storage in iCloud wasn’t really a thing yet? I’m betting I’m not the only one who got that “storage full” warning when I tried to take a photo.
While I don’t exactly miss receiving that storage limit warning, I do have a love/hate relationship with the way the digital world has evolved. Services like Dropbox and Google Drive give you a huge amount of storage space for a small amount of money, which means you never have to risk reaching that storage limit again.
It’s great… right? Well, yes and no.
While this is great for the purposes of keeping archives and important things like financial records and client files, it also has its downsides.
Though that storage warning was kind of a pain in the neck sometimes, it forced you to make a decision about what was more important — the memories you already had stored on your phone or the new one you were about to capture.
Just because you have the space doesn’t mean you should use it. Even if your technology isn’t forcing you to do so, it’s still necessary to evaluate what’s important and what’s not.
ACTION STEP #3
Once you’ve identified those emails that are actually important and the ones that aren’t (from Action Step #1), get rid of them! Be aware of these new parameters moving forward and stick with them!
And if you already have a Monthly Duty Day on the calendar, add a “digital declutter” to your list of to dos. That’ll ensure you’re doing a sweep at least once a month to keep things under control!
Have you dealt with fear of the ‘delete’ button? What’s helped you overcome it in the past?