Think back to the last time you were searching for something. Maybe you had to go into a crawlspace or attic, into the depths of your closet, or even under the bed. You’re sifting through some boxes or bags or whatever you have, when you come across something you don’t recognize. There’s a heavy layer of dust on it, and when you open this container, you see it’s something you haven’t touched, let alone thought of, in months… maybe years.
You don’t see any value in this anymore, and you know you won’t be using it any time soon. This could be old holiday decorations that no longer work or papers from when you were in high school.
Nevertheless, you close it up and keep it there… but have you asked yourself why? Is there any purpose to keeping something that’s been literally collecting dust for such a long time? Do you want to bring it with you during your next move? Do you have other, more useful things that could be taking up this space instead of this – what you’ve now determined to be – dust-collecting-junk?
If you think about it, you probably can’t find a justifiable reason for it, right?
So why would email be any different? If you’re asking yourself “should I delete old emails?” you can go through a similar process and ask yourself a few questions to find out:
- Is This Still Useful to Me?
The first, most simple question to ask is if it’s still useful. If you’re a professional in your field but you’re going back and finding newsletter emails about the “101” of your industry, do you really still need those? Are you perhaps a bit more advanced than the “101” and don’t need the basics? Then get rid of it!
Why add heft to your inbox crawlspace when you can clear it out and make sure it’s more organized and have more room for more recent things that could go there. Right?
If you don’t need it, toss it.
- Is There a GOOD Reason to Keep It?
If it’s not necessarily useful to you right now, can you justify why you’d keep it? If you’re a parent, maybe you can justify the first pair of shoes your baby wore or the old family photo album filled with memories… but do you still need your 3rd grade report card? Of course not!
When it comes to your email, look for those “report cards” as well. Do you need a file from a client you had 10 years ago and have moved on from and no longer need to worry about? Move it to the trash!
Again, this is just heft that’s adding to your inbox and giving the impression that it’s significantly larger than it really is. Plus, the things that might actually still be important will get lost in the clutter because it’s around a bunch of other junk.
Take Queen Elsa’s advice, and “let it go, let it go.”
- Have I Grown Beyond the Purpose of It?
Sometimes you need to rephrase a question or statement to put it into the right context. Even if it’s the exact same thing, using different words can create the “ah-ha!” moment you need for clarity.
So the last question you can ask is: “have I outgrown this?”
If you don’t have the client anymore (and it’s been years since you’ve had any correspondence) or if you’re well-into your career, do you still need these files, documents, or emails that are from a time in your life when you weren’t the professional you are now?
Holding onto things for nostalgia is one thing, but at a certain point we need to let things go so we can continue to grow as professionals – and as people.
That’s not to say that if there’s something that has true sentimental value you should get rid of it. People don’t spend the first dollar they received when they went into business – they keep it as a memento to remind them of how far they’ve come.
So unless it’s of equal importance, introspect and really think about if this email or document is truly that valuable or if you’re living in the past (or if you’re just being lazy).
Give yourself the breathing room you need. Start making decisions, follow through on them, and watch your inbox shrink to a more manageable size.
Deleting old emails is just one part of the overall health of your inbox. If you’re struggling to do this part, you wouldn’t be alone, and you wouldn’t be the first person I heard say this.
I want you to be successful. I want you to live stress free. Most importantly, I want you to have the time in your day that you want, that you need, to do the things you love most.
So join me for one of my complimentary 45-minute webinars and learn how the ARTT system will radically change the way you view your emails. You’ll be given concrete steps that will not only organize your inbox but will give you a brand new mindset when it comes to approaching your emails and drastically reduce the amount of time you spend on it each day.
Simply register for your first day, and I’ll see you there!