Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Virtual Cleanliness: How To Clean Out Your Inbox and Voicemail

A tidy and organized life doesn't just mean shiny, clean floors, dust-free lampshades, and every object in it's place (although that's an excellent start). It also means that you have all your information sorted and put away, too.  And it helps if your conscience is clear of unanswered emails and voicemails, as well.  While my apartment is starting to feel quite clean and fresh from all the spring cleaning I've been doing (if I do say so myself), sadly my email inbox is a jammed, disorganized mess, and the answering machine on our landline (yes, we live in the 1990s), has been flashing "FULL" for a week. So if you've tried to call or email me lately, please accept my humble apology- I'm working on it.

Here are my strategies for managing the "digital clutter" that makes its way into our lives, and keeping on top of all that virtual mail of the e- and voice- varieties. Now, I just need to employ them myself...

1. Separate Email Accounts: I have one email address that is for personal email, one that is for the blog, and one that I give out for reservations, online purchases, and anything else that I expect to generate spam or ads. That way, I can prioritize, and the most important emails don't get lost in a sea of spam.
2. Archive, Don't Sort: Don't bother sorting emails into folders, simply create an Archive folder. Once you have read and responded to the email, or dealt with it, either delete or archive the email. This way, you can just keep things you actively need to deal with in your inbox, and you won't waste time unnecessarily sorting emails into folders. And you will be able to search for the email just as easily in the archive as you would in your inbox.
3. List As You Listen: Get a paper and pen as you listen to voicemails, and write down the info for the one's that require active attention, and then immediately delete them. Be honest- you are far more likely to deal with it if you have the info in front of you than if you save the message to your voicemail, where it just sits making you feel guilty every time you look at your phone. Then return the calls one by one.
4. To Maintain: Try to answer the phone when it rings, even if you don't feel like it (just don't do it in a restaurant or  when you're with a friend)- don't put off til later what you can deal with right now. Also, don't always have your email open- it will destroy your productivity.  Check your email at regular intervals- like every two hours, and only when you have time to answer them immediately. 

Right, now I've just got to go archive the 1254 emails that have come in while I was writing this.

No comments: