Image courtesy Eole via FlickrWhen I am at work, my e-mail system is beautifully organized. Messages go into their appropriate folders right away because I need to easily retrieve and reference them. Junk mail is almost non-existent so that I can see the important info. I need without all the mess. Any spam that gets through the firewall is sent packing sternly. And every client or vendor that I deal with is represented with a current address in my address book - no guess work or digging. All of this is in place to maximize my time and allow me to be more efficient in my job. So why is it that my personal e-mail was such a disaster? Is the time in my personal life not as valuable and important?
My personal e-mail address book had become so unreliable that I was banking on my e-vite account to keep track of all the current addresses for friends and family. And whenever a blogger would leave a comment with their e-mail address displayed, I would just save the message in a general folder to have a place to refer back to when I needed the information. But of course I would then spend forever scrolling through enormous amounts of saved e-mails in that folder trying to find the person I was looking for.
Each morning I get excited to log in to my personal e-mail and interact with all of the comments people have left on our blog, or in various discussions on Goodreads or via direct messages from friends and family. And each morning I was having to filter them all through a mass of crap. My "New Messages" folder was always overflowing - with very little of the stuff I wanted to see. Most of it was free offers, reminders, sales pitches and information that I no longer considered important. I have spent the last 3 weeks unsubscribing to everything from my dentist to stores I rarely frequent. They all get me on a list somewhere along the way - and they all have terrific things to share. But they get in the way with what I want to see. I don't really need to know about upcoming offers ASAP. Half of these places I don't even frequent anymore. And the rest I know exactly how to contact when I need them. I didn't realize I was on so many mass e-mail lists until I started unsubscribing or blocking them. After a few weeks of doing so, I have been rewarded by a nice and concise "New Messages" folder greeting me each morning. I don't overlook the good stuff anymore because there isn't any useless stuff to sort through. Get in, interact and move on.
I also decided to bite the bullet and organize my address book. I spent an afternoon one weekend going through saved e-mails and creating entries in my address book for each sender that I needed to record. Then I deleted all of those random messages that I had been storing for the sender's address alone. Wowee! My entire system was beautifully unclogged. If I want to e-mail you now, I just go where logical people do - their address book - not sifting through pages of messages. And while I was creating address pages, I also added each of them to a Group for ease of future searches. I've got a Bloggers folder, a Family folder, a Friends folder (not that bloggers aren't friends - you know what I mean) and a Work folder. I am a big believer in clustering things.
Which leads me to my final point. Folders. Not just as Groups in your address book. But to hold messages in your e-mail overall. It just makes it easier to find them later. But it also frees up your In Box. My biggest stressor is opening e-mail and finding an In Box filled with random information. It overwhelms me and makes me want to click away to something else. But when I approach it orderly - things improve. I open the message, read it, and then file it. It either gets deleted or saved. And if it is saved, it must go in a folder. I like to make up fun names for my folders - it makes me smile. But I also like to be logical. Makes life easier later.
These simple steps have made my mornings with e-mail sooooo much nicer. I know when I open it up, what I want is all that I will see. If something unnecessary finds it way in - I unsubscribe or block instantly. It gives me more time to read, respond right away and filter for the future. Because to me, interaction is the key to this online world of ours. A few hours getting my e-mail all cleaned up leads to countless hours of building community with all of you in the blogosphere.