I started the year off with a simple goal. I wanted to have a clean inbox. I’m a bit Type-A (by a bit, I mean totally and completely). I like order. Things have places and they should be in them. All of the time.
This compulsive tendency has been a challenge living with teenage boys who live in a world of self imposed chaos. Clothes on the floor. Sports equipment discarded everywhere. Backpacks where important papers go to die. Throw in a crazy little dog and my world of order is thrown into complete disarray.
One of the few places where I used to be able to achieve simplicity and order was my inbox. Neat and orderly folders each titled with client names sat in a pristine row with emails sorted as they came in.
A few years ago, I got really busy. The kind of busy where I had to write down “eat lunch” and “take shower” on my daily to-do list just to make myself remember those routine daily tasks.. That is often the challenge of being a freelancer - your at-home life creeps into your work and your work infringes on your at-home life.
Somehow in the midst of that constant hustle, my inbox got completely out of control. Client emails mixed with a constant stream of informative newsletters and market research alerts. Emails from my family sat alongside the latest sale announcement from my favorite stores. Every day I would sit down and think, I really need to clean out my inbox. Week after week... month after month… year upon year…. until I could no longer tolerate it.
In January, I spent two full days going through email after email. Sorting. Deleting. Following up. It was liberating. I was able to finally achieve Inbox Zero. What is Inbox Zero? That special moment when your inbox is completely empty. - beautifully, wonderfully empty. The stress lifted. I felt free. It lasts about one minute. The moment it is empty you will start to hear the dreaded “bing” of a new message arriving to clutter up your world once again.
Truthfully, I have not been able keep it completely empty, but it’s no longer so full that I feel overwhelmed. Once a week I try to take the time to clean it up so I can find information that I need. Next up will be unsubscribing to stuff that I no longer find useful as it comes in to cut down the clutter. The ongoing battle allows me to focus on emails that I truly value and need rather than get bogged down in the endless stream of new messages. I doubt I will ever maintain a completely empty inbox, but I’ve found a system that works for me.
About the author: The Business Girl is Terri Sullivan Biehn. I have been a professional business writer and management consultant for more than fifteen years. As a management consultant, I work with entrepreneurs to develop business plans and other documents. Through my consulting practice, I coach entrepreneurs and small business owners on their general start-up, marketing, financial, operational and management issues.