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Is a clean inbox possible?

July 13, 2013 2 comments

Three or four years ago, I made a resolution: every time I got out of my car, I would leave it 100% clean.  Child got a lollipop after his haircut?  Wrapper and stick come out of car as we leave it.  And the little paper claim check from valet parking.  And the empty soda can. Not later–now.  Every time I step out of the car, all trash and miscellaneous items come with me.  I have kept that resolution meticulously.  I no longer drive a roving garbage dump.  My car is pristine, and my quality of life is better as a result.

Is it possible to do something similar with your email inbox?  Every summer, I clean my inbox down to less than 10 messages.  This year I started at over 1300, and the cleaning took over a week of an hour or two a day. (I can’t take much more than that at a sitting.)  Could I clean my inbox regularly, and keep it as clean as my car?

I’m not sure it’s possible.  There are good reasons to leave something in an inbox temporarily. For example, my administrative assistant is on vacation this week, and I have kept her note saying when she’ll be back and who to contact in her absence.  When she’s back, I’ll delete it.  It needs to sit there a little while, but I’d really rather not have it sit there until next summer waiting for an inbox cleansing marathon.  

I don’t think a direct analogy to my car is going to work–I’m not going to clean my inbox every time I step away from my mail program.  So what would work?  I’m going to try spending half an hour every Friday cleaning my inbox.  I’ll report back on whether it works.

How do you keep your inbox under control?  Do you let it grow to 10k messages and then just delete everything without reading it?  Do you clean it on some schedule?  Leave me a comment about what works for you!  And I’ll report back on how this goes for me.

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