As a part of my 2015 decluttering goals, I scheduled week #3 to be decluttering my email inboxes. I posted my results after my first round of decluttering, but I didn’t make huge progress, so I left is as a sort of “to be completed and maintained” type of task. I have just recently totally changed up my email process, so I thought it was about time to do a quick follow up post.
My original total of emails was: 9300 + 1000 + 100 + 100 + 30 = 10530
After my first round of decluttering my total was: 6170 + 850 + 0 + 20 + 20 = 7060
And then Alicia from Financial Diffraction (who is no longer blogging it appears) introduced me to the Email Game. It changed my email decluttering task from boring and monotonous, to a game to get points. I like points. 🙂
It worked for a while, and I was slowly bringing down my total… but then I got lazy… and well… I stopped playing the game and stopped deleting emails and just started letting them add up again… Every so often I’d take some time to delete emails, but most of the time, I’d just let them accumulate…
But that has all changed now! Last week, while I was finally attempting to finish reading the “Getting Things Done” book by David Allen, I decided to check the totals again to see where I stand, and start implementing the GTD process with my emails. (Side note, I once again did not finish reading the book before I had to return it to the library…)
Right now I have 5 email inboxes that I keep… excluding my work email (I don’t count that). On my original post I also had 5 email addresses, but I didn’t count my blog email at the time, as I had just started that email address, and it hadn’t had a chance to accumulate messages. I have since deleted the email account that I had made for a special event after deleting all the messages (that’s the 0 up in my results from last time). So I still sit at 5 email addresses. And here are the inbox message counts as of last week:
Total last week: 8764 + 1 + 2010 + 105 + 79 = 10959
So… That’s bigger than my first original count… Not good…
GTD on my Email Inboxes
The GTD (“Getting Things Done”) philosophy says that nothing can stay in your inbox. Everything must either be done, delegated, on a next action list, put on a calendar for future action, or filed as reference. David Allen suggests creating folders in your email to hold each category separately, and thus emptying your inbox. Since I haven’t actually finished the book yet, I haven’t sat down to go through the full GTD process, but I figure I could start with my email inboxes…
- my main personal email (gmail)
This email was my biggest project. It’s the email that I use for most everything and I’ve had it for ages…I started by creating some of the folders recommended by David Allen (@ACTION, @WAITING ON, REFERENCES). Then I started going through the emails in the inbox. As I was doing this, I found that I had some emails that I wanted to read (long informational emails), but that would take longer than the 2 minute maximum that David Allen suggests when going through things in your inbox… So, I added a sub-folder to my @ACTION folder that was my TO READ folder. This way, I had a bunch of things that I eventually wanted to spend some time reading in one place…
I also found that I wanted to classify my REFERENCES a bit more, instead of just one big mess of messages (much like my current inbox), so I created a couple sub-folders for various categories, including one for PHOTOS (to store all those photos that get emailed to you and you want to save for some time in the future) and one for PUPPY TRAINING.
To go through almost 9000 emails takes some time… even if you are adhering to the 2 minute rule, if I spent 2 minutes on each email I would be sitting there sorting or dealing with them for 12 days straight… No breaks, no sleeping, no eating… Yeah… So I’m not about to do that… But I did get started… and made some progress…
So… from 8764… to 8115… to 7908… to 7351… to 7069… to 6452…
- secondary personal email (hotmail)
I was actually surprised by the 850 down to 1… I must have just gone in there one day and deleted everything… Hopefully I didn’t delete something I wanted to keep. Ha ha! This one is really not used anymore… I deleted the single email that was in the inbox… But as I was exploring that email, I found a bunch of old folders of emails (I guess I used to be good at taking things out of my inbox) that I really don’t need anymore… I decided to go through all those folders and clean them up too. No point having reference information that I don’t know exists… I still have some work to do there, but the inbox is now empty.
So… this one went from 1 to 0. My email gave me a trophy for it:
- special event account (closed) – replaced by blog email (gmail)
As you can see by the 2010 emails in my blogging email inbox, I have let a lot of emails accumulate over the last couple years of blogging…As with the first email inbox, I first created the base folders: @ACTION, @WAITING ON and REFERENCE. Then started sorting. As I was going thru them all, I did end up making a few sub-folders in my REFERENCE folder and I also added the TO READ folder under the @ACTION folder. A lot of the items in the TO READ folder were blog posts that I subscribe to but haven’t been able to read yet… And I had some emails from challenges that I subscribed to that I never completed or I never even started… Some of those I have kept in a separate REFERENCE sub-folder, others I have given up on…
So, the sorting went… and I had a count of 2010… down to 1547… to 1204… to 746… You can probably tell that I was doing some mass deleting… I had emails from almost every time someone had commented on this blog just sitting there in my inbox… So the deleting continued… down to 525… to 373… to 149… and finally all the way down to 0!
- sports club account (gmail)
This is sort of shared with others at the moment, but I spent some time going through the old emails and did the same as before… Created the new folders: @ACTION and @WAITING ON and also a REFERENCE folder with a couple sub-folders. For this one, I also made a specific @NEWSLETTER folder to hold the content for the next issue of the club newsletter.
With those folders in place, I went through and organized all the emails… And the inbox went from 105 down to… 0!
The bonus was, once I had organized them, I went in to the @ACTION folder and powered through a bunch of to-do items that had been sitting there for ages. It was so easy! And obviously is one of the major benefits of this system… Now the @ACTION folder is almost empty too!
- shared/wedding email (gmail)
This is not really a wedding email account anymore, since we’ve been married for over a year… It is just a shared email with my husband for random purposes.It had a bunch of random things left over from our wedding in it, and also has been used to store photos from various sources. Even though it isn’t really actively used for anything, I decided to make the 3 mail folders: @ACTION, @WAITING ON and REFERENCES so that I could organize the emails in the same way, even if there aren’t many there… I added the sub-folders TO READ and PHOTOS as before.
Then the process of emptying the inbox started… 79… down to 36… down to 17… and finally:
Not sure what the “Inbox by Gmail” thing is, but it feels good to be empty!
So what is my final result? Well, as of the time publishing this post:
Current total: 6452 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 6452
So, I still have a bit of work left in my primary email inbox, but I’m going to keep plugging away at it, and I’ve already seen the benefit with the other inboxes, so eventually this will work for that one too!
How are your email inboxes looking? Do you keep your inbox empty? Or is it a storage place like mine used to be?