clean up your e-mail box

Clean up your e-mail box. Drawers, part of object of Tejo Remy.

Whatever time of year it is – it’s always good to clean up your e-mail folders. And not only clean up, but also see if you can adjust the way that you deal with e-mails.

Do you want to clean up rigorously:
1) Create an “Old” folder and put all e-mails older than the current year there.
2) Go to that folder and sort by sender, or by subject. Keep only the most recent, or those that still contain valuable information. You can probably get rid of a lot.
3) Empty the ‘Deleted items’ folder.
4) Check the ‘Sent items’ folder. Are there any messages there for which you are still waiting for a response? Put it in a folder ‘Waiting’ – see also point 3) below.

Do you want to clean up in steps:
1) Plan to clean up for 1 or 2 hours at a time. Set an alarm.
2) Start with the oldest e-mail, i.e. start at the bottom. You can probably get rid of a lot. Sort by sender, that helps!
3) Do you want to save messages because you think that you still have a use for them, or because you still need to do something with them? Then make sure that they are in a folder together, for example in a folder ‘Pending’. Check through that folder regularly.
4) Do you want to save certain e-mails to read or use again? Create an ‘Archive’ or ‘Save’ folder. Within that folder you can easily find a particular e-mail with the search function. You can perhaps also create some subfolders.
5) Do you come across many newsletters that you never read? Unsubscribe.
6) Keep only the last e-mail of “back-and-forth correspondence.” That should contain the whole series of interchanges.
7) While cleaning up, pay attention to which type of e-mails can in future be deleted immediately after reading – that helps with your new system

Your new system:
You’ve probably noticed that (many) e-mails could have been deleted a long time ago. Let that be your guide. Making a decision as soon as an e-mail arrives is the most effective thing you can do.

For each e-mail, decide if you want to:

  • Delete it (no other action needed)
  • Archive it (maybe you need it again)
  • Deal with it (if you can do it within 3 minutes: do it right away)
  • Deal with it later (set a due date in your to-do list).

There is another effective measure: regularly set a limited time to deal with your e-mails. Don’t do it all day long. Otherwise, you will come across the same e-mails all day and that takes time.

And last but not least: the fewer e-mails you send yourself, the fewer e-mails you receive… And fewer e‑mails means less energy is consumed. That is an aspect that is often overlooked. E-mails are stored in large energy-guzzling data centres. Cleaning up old e-mails therefore has added value.