i hate admitting weakness. i avoid mentioning it at all costs. but today, i will break from tradition.
i have used e-mail at work consistently for ten years. and i have “purged” my email inbox only twice in my life. the first time was when i switched companies 4 years ago. at that time, i had little use for my old emails. i saved them all to a cd and never looked back… never opening them again… any of them… i started my new job on my new computer with no email messages.
4 years later (today), i turned on my computer to 1,204 email messages in my inbox – no folders, no systems to retrieve data, just 1,200+ messages. luckily, “purge inbox” had been entered on my to-do list almost 10 months ago and this morning i had set aside time to do it.
first, i poured myself a cup of coffee. second, i closed my door. third, i researched recommended folder structures for email by searching on-line and calling friends. fourth, i got to work going through each message individually and filing them into a folder or deleting them. fifth, 3+ hours later, i emerged from my office with every message in its proper home in its new folder. inbox messages: zero.
i incorporated two valuable pieces of advice that i collected during my research. 1) if you can retrieve the information elsewhere, don’t keep the email. this works for me. i am not in a job where large amounts of needed data are stored in emails. most of my necessary data can be found in files and folders on my hard drive. and 2) keep your email filing system similar to your document system. in other words, my document folders are sorted by category and event, not people names. therefore, it made little sense for me to establish an e-mail folder structure based on people. it serves me better by using events.
i am not surprised that my uncluttered inbox breathes into me such fresh air now when i check e-mails. just like an uncluttered desk, an uncluttered desktop (or outlook) is so freeing and energizing.