Managing your Digital Clutter

Email overload stresses me out. I’m not alone. Many us feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of messages that suddenly appear, demanding our attention. Who has the time? Some time ago, my tidying guru, Marie Kondo, shared some great email management tips with Fortune. I find this article to still be helpful.

1. Keep it simple
Kondo believes that in your home you should store all papers in three folders: needs immediate attention, keep for now, and keep forever. This makes it easy to find anything you need.

She makes this same recommendation for email messages. No need for folders with sub-folders, then sub-sub folders. It’s creates unnecessary complexity. How many times have you tried to find a document in a folder, within a folder, in a folder, etc? In the past, I prided myself on my intricate folder system. The first level would be limited to five crucial folders, i.e. Financial, Home, Personal, etc. The second level was more complex with 10-20 subfolders and then third level, fourth, etc. You get the picture.

Per Kondo’s suggestion, I now have two folders: “Unprocessed” and “Save.” Confession time. I do still have sub-folders within the “Save” folder, but that works for me.

2. Just once
Kondo recommends reading and replying to emails all at once. Rather than spending a few minutes here, a few minutes there, she says you can be much more productive if you are completely focused on the task at hand. Set aside a time when to “open your mail,” then read and respond to your emails as quickly and efficiently as possible.

3. Delete it
To organize your physical things, Kondo recommends you donate or discard any item that does not spark joy when you touch it. Emails are not tangible, therefore cannot spark joy. If you don’t need the email anymore, she gives you permission to delete it. Thank you, Marie!

4. Distractions are evil
Your iPhone dings every time you receive a message. Notifications constantly pop up on your computer screen while you work. The result: these interruptions cause you to lose your focus. So, silence your phone and turn off notifications. Besides, if you’re following step two above (“Just Once”), dedicating focused time to reading and responding to emails, there’s no need to get notified every time a new one hits your inbox.

Do you agree with Kondo’s digital decluttering strategies? Try them and let me know what you think. Also, feel free to share your comments and any tips and tricks you may have.