One place of tremendous clutter, it’s not physical clutter but it’s mental clutter, which is just as bad or maybe worse, is email. The thing about email is that it’s a wonderful servant but it’s a bad master, and all of us need to think about our own approach to email. And I think that this is – this is an area where you can’t say, “What’s the best way?” or “What’s the right way?” or “What’s the most efficient way?” because there’s so much variation. People have different temperaments, they use their emails in different ways, they have different kinds of pressures from their jobs. Some people cannot check their email over the weekend, some people want to check their email every half an hour. I myself would find it much more stressful to try to completely disengage from email than I would find it relaxing. So this idea that, you know, I should go on vacation and completely cut off, that wouldn’t work for me, but maybe it would work really well for someone else.
So part of it – part of it is to think about, well, what do you do and what works for you? One thing a lot of experts say to do is not to use your email as a to-do list. I always use my emails as a to-do list, like, it’s super important, that’s one of its most important functions for me is to act as a to-do list. So that’s advice that might work very well for someone but maybe not for you, and so I think we have to think very carefully about how we use it. There are some things to consider. One is unsubscribe to as much as you can as fast as you can. Anything that you don’t want, unsubscribe to it just to keep that stuff out. Really watch notifications. Do you need to be notified as much as you are? Can you talk in your office or workplace about the CC policy? Some workplaces get into a habit of just CCing everybody at all connected and that leads to a lot of wasted time and distraction.
So can you really talk through, well, what are the expectations in our workplace around who’s going to be CC’d on something and who’s not? Because, obviously, if you’re not CC’d when you think you should be, that’s very irritating as well. Although it’s not creating clutter in your inbox, it might be creating problems for you elsewhere. Also having clarity about expectations of when people will email. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed and they feel like their lives are cluttered with email because they’re getting work emails over the weekend or at night. Talk to the people in your workplace, find out what the expectations are. I’m a person who likes to send emails all the time, all through the night, all through the weekend, all through vacation. But I’ve learned to use delay delivery.
This is a way that you can set the time that your email goes out so that I’m not inundating people with emails at times that they feel are inappropriate. I get the email kind of off my mind, and then they get it in their inbox at a time that seems appropriate so it doesn’t feel like it’s encroaching on their personal time or their leisure time. So the thing about email is that it’s an extremely powerful and useful tool, but we need to take command of it. Not to just do our default behaviors or to let it wash over us, but to really think about how to use it well so that it doesn’t become a source of clutter in our minds and in our inbox..