Want an empty inbox? Try this.

You may already know that I am one of those people in a daily battle when it comes to paper.  For the sake of argument, it’s fair to assume that “paper” = all things cut from trees + sent via email.  

While I am proactive – I am on do-not-mail lists, I unsubscribe from countless solicitation emails, my shredder has a front-row seat in my home office and and-from-home office – more paper comes in than I know what to do with.

In 2014, I took a morning to get all of my inboxes to zero (now, it’s something that I do at least once a week).  I actually took a screenshot of it because my feathers were so fluffed.    

Can you relate?

In my experience with fellow members of group programs, clients, and even friends, I know that I’m not alone.

A colleague in an online program I took a couple of years ago told our group that she had 40k emails in her inbox {I felt stress that I had 40 in my personal iCloud account – 40k is out of my scope}.  

She said that she didn’t know how to tackle them and so suggestions from the group starting rolling in.

Delete all of the emails at once.

Close the entire account.

Go through them one by one and put them each in a folder.

Purge 2k a day.  You’ll be done in a month!

No one bothered to ask what the beejeebees was going on in this woman’s life that enabled her to turn a blind eye when her inbox hit 100, 1000, 10000.  If her inbox looks like that, what does her laundry room look like?  Her planner?  The darkness at the back of her closet?  In her own head for goodness sakes?

I can only imagine that it’s all a mess.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.  ~Corrie Ten Boom

There’s no judgment here.  I’m speaking from my own experience.  My own life has been 40 emails out of control across-the-board. 

But when I clear those 40 out – when I block time in my schedule to  take action – I open up so much space in my life.  It’s hard to believe that organizing a few dozen emails could do that, but it does.

During one particular client intake interview a while back, the client mentioned that she needed help prioritizing her emails.  My teammate at the time, her new assistant, took note.  But when she didn’t show up on time for our kickoff call a few days later – because she could not find the call-in details that I had emailed to her – the priority for our team to get her back on track jumped up a few notches.  Because you cannot run a successful business buried in untended-to emails.


You don’t need to be a business owner to catch my drift.  

Life is so much harder when you find yourself wading through piles and stacks.  Pages and pages of things that may or may not need your attention.  

A bill is not the same as your child’s artwork is not the same as a piece of junkmail is not the same as a potential client’s business card.

But we get so many things landing in our life, don’t we?  How are we supposed to manage it all?  

My go-to answer is this:  a system.

I really love new systems.

They get me all giddy.

The problem is sticking with them.

And while I love color-coding and alphabetizing, what works for me is simple.  So I use only a small handful of tools.  

I live by my iCal and a project management program helps me keep our team and clients on track.  I scrap as much new paper that comes my way as possible by scanning and filing it in GoogleDrive.  Overarchingly, that’s really it.  A virtual calendar, a virtual to-do list, and a virtual filing cabinet.

{I’ll expand on how I use each of these tools in the weeks to come, so don’t fret.}

Notice that my inbox is not a tool.  It is a vehicle.  Period.  

When something pops up in there, I do something with it.  

I take an action.  

Delete.  Unsubscribe.  File.  Schedule.  Respond.  

Verb, verb, verb.  

And I don’t know about you, but I cannot verb, verb, and verb all day long.  

So…if you’re checking your email haphazardly throughout the day, make that the very first verb you do next – knock it off.  Pick a recurring time or two that work for you– maybe add it to your iCal – and commit to only checking your email at that time.  If you know that you will only be in your inbox at noon each day, for example, you won’t be as likely to let it go until tomorrow.  You’ll do it at noon, today, and it’ll be done.

Give it a try – and let me know if it works for you.  The thing about a system is that it isn’t perfect.  If it doesn’t work for you, what will?  I want to hear about it.

Keep up the good work,


Noelle Lotano

CEO, Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce

By | 2017-01-04T20:40:42+00:00 April 6th, 2016|Business Advice, Productivity|Comments Off on Want an empty inbox? Try this.

About the Author:

Noelle is the CEO of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce. She lives in downtown Toms River with her incredible family.