The Trick To Emptying the Inbox

Monday, December 22, 2014
The other day, I shared an online update: “For my next act, I shall make 331 emails…disappear!”

I was joking, of course, but there’s nothing funny about an over-stuffed, neglected inbox. I needed to take care of that situation, and unfortunately, my magic wand wasn’t quite up to the task. So I reached into my hat and pulled out good, old-fashioned prioritizing tricks.

I use two different accounts, one for business and another for…well, let’s call it “nonessential” business. (Getting separate email accounts is the first trick of the writer’s trade. I can go weeks without checking my other account and the only thing I’ve missed is 87 store coupons.)

But I still end up with lots of “somewhat” essential emails in the business account. I usually zip through those emails daily, but occasionally, I forget to delete them or file them properly. So first, I deal with the “somewhat essential” emails junking up the inbox. (Right off, I feel pretty productive!)

Now, I’m left with business emails, plus updates from writer blogs or newsletters.

The business emails from connections I recognize are not sitting around the inbox. ( No, sirree. I am on top of those emails.)

(Most of the time.)

But the other business emails, the ones from names I don’t know, might still be hanging about, waiting for attention. If they begin “Dear Writer…”, I stop reading. (Whee! I’m down to 297 emails!)

And now, I’m left with the blog notifications and newsletters, important tips and information that keep me on top of the trends and such in the writing business. I tend to leave these emails for reading when “time permits.”

Time, I’ve found, thinks that expression is hilarious. But I’ve also found that sweeping through the inbox emails while watching sports keeps me from throwing stuff at the TV when my team is losing. (See what I’ve done there? Multi-tasking is another trick of the cleaning-up-the-inbox trade.)

What I realized, writing this post, is that I catch up on blogs first, whether they’re writer friends or writing business. I think it’s because blogs tend to be more entertaining—and much shorter.

Which brings me to the newsletters—and a tip for those of you who send out a newsletter. I read the ones that are well-organized. And by “read”, I mean skim for the information I need and toss. The long and tedious newsletters tend to linger forever in my inbox, unread. And that, friends, brings me to the last hundred or so emails—and my final trick.

If I’m scrolling through the inbox and see an email that’s months old, I act like the song and let it go. If it were important, I wouldn’t keep skipping it, right?

And Abracadabra, y’all. The inbox is empty.

~Cathy C. Hall


Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I keep those newsletters and longer things, too, for when I have more time to read them but too often they end up sitting there for months. You're right about having to use that delete key after awhile.

Margo Dill said...

These are good tips. I HATE a cluttered inbox. I am a filer. I read one time that the key to making your life simpler is to only deal with a piece of mail one time--like junk mail from the mailman-open it or toss it but don't look at it, put it in your mail pile, then look at it again and then toss it. I TRY to follow that same advice for email, but it's not always possible. Happy holidays to you and may your inbox stay uncluttered!

Cathy C. Hall said...

I hate to toss 'em, too, Madeline, but after a while...oh, well. :-)

And yes, Margo, I try to do the same with junk mail. (I have a big basket of it, sitting in my family room. Ugh. :-)

And happy holidays to y'all, too!

Karen Cioffi said...

Great tips, Cathy. I use the same system to reduce my emails. It's funny how the mind-set plays a factor today - my first thought when I open my emails accounts is what can I delete. :)

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

It's on my to-do list for January. It's so easy to just skip over them, though!

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