I got a call from a client who said “hey we never got a response to the speaking request letter we sent two weeks ago.” Thankfully she couldn’t see my face as I cringed on the other side of the phone. That was the final straw. I had been avoiding cleaning up my inbox for about 6 months. “It will take too long” I kept telling myself “there is a much better use of my time” but the cost putting it off at this point was too great.
I was feed up with opening my inbox and feeling overwhelmed. The emails were coming in so fast that important messages were getting pushed down and I either responded later than I preferred or worse, not at all. The flashing yellow bar that I’m about to hit my limit and stop getting emails altogether had been flashing for weeks. No matter how much trash I emptied or small amounts of emails I deleted, it kept coming back.
At this stage in my career as a business owner there is a certain level of professionalism that I hold myself to and the lack of email responsiveness is not aligned with my values. I had to do something about it. Keep reading to find out how I went from 2,542 to 86 emails in one night. You too might be suffering with email overwhelm. Here are the exact steps that I took to get my inbox cleared out and you can do it too:
Step 1: Make sure your settings are adjusted to see 100 emails on the page. Started looking for regular emails that you get regularly – daily, weekly, monthly and make a list of all the companies on a few post-it notes.
Step 2: After the list is formed use the Gmail search feature to start finding those email messages and do a select all and delete.
Step 3: Take the time to scan the page to make sure you’re not deleting anything important. If you see something then uncheck the box on that item, deleting everything else.
Step 4: Leave unchecked items to be sorted or filed later. It’s tempting to deal with them but don’t do it. The key is to focus on deleting everything you can because as the numbers go down you’ll be more inspired to keep going.
Step 5: After going through all the names on your list if there’s still emails remaining go to the back page where you can find the oldest emails and look for more names.
Step 6: After you’ve gotten everything. Starting at the oldest message go page by page and start deleting, again using the select all, scan the page for important items then delete technique.
Step 7: At this point you should be down to a small number of messages that you can go through one by one and read, file, archive or delete.
Now, you should start feeling a big sense of relief. In full transparency, I had a big jug of water at my side with Martin Lawrence reruns going in the background. The occasional laugh made it a little easier to sit for the 2.5 hours that it took to get it all done.
You might be wondering why I stopped at 86 emails. The last bit are messages that require my attention. I need to respond, save the contact or make a note of any to-do’s before I can delete them. Too many people make the mistake of keeping emails in their box like it’s a daily to-do list. Don’t let that be you.
I’m excited to handle the remaining messages. It will take less than an hour of invested time. After this nightmare, I’m inbox zero from here on out.
Jamila Payne is Founder and CEO of Daily Success Routine. She provides corporate and small group training on productivity, women’s empowerment and achieving project based goals. Her Bestselling course Time Freedom, uncovers a little-known secret: how to create flow between work and home life and its direct impact on employee engagement and business results. Jamila is a Contributor to the Huffington Post, Black Enterprise Magazine and Salesforce.com. Watch the FREE Video: one hack that will finally get you checking everything off your to-do list to learn more.