An 8th Reason to Keep Your Inbox Empty

Following up on the recent series of posts from my White Paper on ‘7 Reasons to Keep the Inbox Empty’, here’s an 8th reason . . .

Our ‘outer order’ has a disproportionate impact on our ‘inner calm’.

When our inbox is overloaded and cluttered, it is easy to feel a degree of unease or stress or even ‘out of control’. Many of us rationalise why we have so many emails in the inbox and believe that we have everything under control. Each of us has some sort of threshold that we use as a measure of whether we feel in control of the inbox or not. Some say 10 or less, others say less than full screen and others 50, 100 or even more.

Even if everything in the inbox has been actioned, there is still some level of psychological drag or friction or burden that comes from a sense of ‘unfinished business’ - at some stage, those emails have to be filed or deleted. As Gretchen Rubin has written in her book ‘The Happiness Project’,

“when unfinished tasks are put off for a long time, they end up haunting us, making us feel unsatisfied and robbing us of our energy.”

These days, many of us simply keep everything in the inbox because the filing decision and action simply consumes too much time and mental energy. We say that its much easier to keep all our email in the one place so we don’t have to worry about where it is and can easily find it again later, using sort or search functions in our email software.

And I agree. The principle of keeping all email in a single folder is an excellent one. It’s just that the inbox is not the ideal location for doing that. You see, the inbox is simply a decision-making environment. It should be considered in the same was as a letterbox or pigeon hole - it’s where new messages arrive until we get a chance to look at them.

As we check each message we should make a decision about it and move it to an appropriate place using the powerful 4D methodology – Delete, Do it Now, Delegate or Decide (where it should be filed, when it should be done or wait for someone/something else). See a summary of this 4D process on the one-page ‘cheat sheet’ below. Click anywhere on it to access a free copy you can download for yourself.

From my experience in working with thousands of clients since 2006, there are usually 2 reasons we don’t clear the inbox.

  1. we either don’t have a proven decision-making process for each email or

  2. we don’t have somewhere to move it to.

So we just leave them in the inbox.

And this ‘outer order’, or should we say ‘disorder’, has a disproportionately negative impact on our ‘inner calm’. I have seen so many people gain new life and energy when I help them get their inbox empty. Feedback like the following shows just how true this is.

“I am pleased to let you know I have cleared my back log of emails (400+)! Thank you so much for your guidance, strategies and, in particular, the one-on-one training – I feel like a ton of bricks has just been lifted from my shoulders.” Kathryn Baldock | Exec. Assist. Development & Community Services | Indigo Shire 

“You have turned my working life around……. From the training I have been able to manage my time and stay focused on a task for the first time in years!!! The best thing is only looking at an email once and making a decision. Thanks”. Stacey Jennings | Coordinator Local Laws | Latrobe City Council

“Can I just say that you have completely changed my life at work after attending your training on Tuesday. Even less than 2 days after and living in my Calendar and not in my in-box I am less stressed and feel more in control than I have since starting here 4 and half years ago.” Jenny Juschkat | Manager Dental Services | Latrobe Community Health

“I must say I was less than enthused to go to yet another training when I have so much work to do at my desk. I listened to you talk about this being life changing and how my emails would disappear. Managing two inboxes and with them generating most of my workload I sat fidgeting in my seat quite annoyed that you had no idea about my work; this surely couldn’t apply to me. So now a week later; I sit here at the end of the day with time to allocate an appropriate response and provide constructive feedback. I have still been busy all day but my work is not mounting up uncontrollably. I apply the two minute rule a few times a day and drag other emails into a slotted time to deal with it. Maybe not today but certainly as it needs prioritising. My emails are at zero at the end of the day EVERY DAY! The fact that I am now telling you that this training has indeed “changed my life” is like eating humble pie. But kudos to you and a well-deserved pat on the back. My calendar is now my priority - I have control of my work - I have started to leave on time - I have left my work at work giving me work life balance. Thank you.” Kat Campbell | Central Enrolment Office | Cardinia Shire Council

“Since the training last week I have been able to clear all of my emails and kept an empty inbox. To have a clear process to manage my emails has made a significant difference in my work life. I actually feel on top of my work and didn’t realise how much my emails where dragging me down.“ Terry Larkman | Child & Family Community Co-ordinator | Cardinia Shire Council

If you would like to enjoy some of the same benefits as these people have experienced, why not jump on your computer and join me on-line for a practical, ‘hands-on’ workshop where I’ll walk you through getting your inbox emptied and show you the process for keeping it that way into the future – click here for details of the How to Get Your Inbox Empty (and keep it that way) webinar.

“I emptied my Inbox and it feels fantastic.” Attendee at How to Get Your Inbox Empty by Christmas webinar (Dec 2018)

Better still, why not contact me about how I can help you and your team to get more control of this critically important aspect of your work life in 2019?

Steuart Snooks