It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon as I sit on the couch flipping back and forth between Hoarders on A&E and Hoarders: Buried Alive on TLC, thankful I’m not one of them. When both commercial breaks occur simultaneously, I get up to get a glass of water and check my personal e-mail. Displayed on the screen are messages 1-50 of the 4,611 e-mails in my inbox. Nope, not a typo, you read that correctly—four-thousand six hundred and eleven. But I’m only using 28% of the “unlimited” space Gmail provides, so that’s okay, right? When I signed up for my Gmail account in April 2005, I loved the newness of my account and the endless amount of data storage. Six years later, I am faced with the daunting task of cleaning & purging thousands of conversations with friends, notifications of payments/available statements, tips & recipes from various e-newsletters, and more. What should I keep? What do I purge? But what if I need a record of my cell phone payment from February 2007? Or want to look back at the “Quick Tips for Tackling Laundry” e-mail Real Simple sent me over a year ago? And then (GASP) it occurs to me: I, Lauren Wilson, am an e-hoarder.
When it comes to organizing files, binders, keeping things neat and tidy, and purging physical items I no longer find necessary, I can say with confidence that I ROCK. On the other hand, organizing myself electronically is one of my biggest struggles. Luckily, I’ve picked up some tips & tricks along the way, though I still have a long, looonnngg journey to E-topia.
When I started my new job at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey this past July, I created a New (Fiscal) Year Resolution to keep my inbox clean & organized, and am proud to say I have less than 25 e-mails in my inbox, and even more proud that I’ve only received one “YOU ARE REACHING YOUR QUOTA!” notification from Computer Services since July! Here are the general guidelines I created for myself to get me where I am today:
- Primary Inbox—The only messages allowed to stay in my inbox are unread messages & items requiring a response or follow-up.
- Inbox Folders—Will I ever need to access this e-mail thread from home? If so, it’ll be filed away in one of my many Inbox Folders.
- Archived Folders— If the chances of me needing to access an e-mail from home are slim to none, it’ll be filed away in an archived folder so it doesn’t take up my limited inbox space.
- Sent Items— Oh, how quickly the “Sent Items” folder piles up!! I created another “Sent Items” folder in my Archived Folders and clear the folder on my inbox at least once a week.
- Deleted Items—I know, I know—deleting the “Deleted Items” folder seems repetitive, but depending on your e-mail settings, the deleted items may stay there and continue to take up space in your inbox until you physically go in and purge them for good. With that said, I make it a priority to go in about once a week to permanently delete all deleted items.
- The PDF Rule— These files are huge! Save the file to your computer and delete the e-mail or store away in an Archived Folder.
- E-Mail Threads— Until Outlook takes notes from Gmail and saves a conversation thread as one e-mail, there is no need to save every e-mail in the never-ending ping pong conversation (especially when Reply All is involved!) Delete the old ones and only save the most recent e-mail.
I’m well aware that the guidelines I created for myself may be common knowledge and second nature for many of you, but it’s a HUGE “Step One” for me on my journey from E-Hoarder to E-topia, and so far, it seems to be working! I know there are hundreds of e-organization tips and tricks still to learn, and I hope to acquire and implement more and more of these each year.
I’ve stumbled upon a few helpful websites in my quest to become more organized electronically, but am more interested in knowing how my fellow student affairs colleagues stay on top of this overwhelming task, which leads me to the question:
What strategies do you use to keep your inbox organized?
Assistant Director of Student Development
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey