Our family drove home from our summer vacation in Colorado on Monday. I am always sad to leave my home state of Colorado with its beautiful mountains and crisp cool air, but this week’s humidity and heat has me ready to boycott Iowa in August! On a more relevant note, a good portion of the 9 hour car ride was spent sorting through emails that I had neglected for about 8 days. I CAN NOT believe how long it took me to simply organize my family’s life for the next couple of months!
I really do miss the days of paper clutter, when everything I needed to know for my kids came home or through the mailbox in paper form. I feel like the information was limited and a bit more concise. These days I feel like I get at least five emails a day, per kid, with a mix of really important and almost useless information. In order to decipher what is important and not completely ruin my kids’ lives, (yes a little dramatic) I have to read all 900 emails, download all 15 apps, complete and sign 20 different documents and enter no less than 300 events in our family calendar. I was completely exhausted by Monday night, and I literally sat in the car the whole day!
I wish I could tell you I have a fabulous strategy to circumvent the time drain of reading all of those emails, but I don’t. I do have a system that allows me to make sure all of the information in those emails is properly dealt with and filed away for reference if needed in the future, without it being a full time job.
The first thing I do with email is let the guilt go! Just because someone choses to send me an email on Monday does not mean that I must prioritize what was important to them that day and respond to that email the same day. I will respectfully read and deal with emails that are sent to me, especially those sent by teachers, coaches, ministry leaders… However, I set aside time each week or so to keep my family’s schedule and life in order. Much like ignoring my cell phone during family time, I often ignore my email until I can sit down and properly deal with its contents.
When I sit down with my email, I also have a notebook, my calendar and these days… my credit card. I work through all of the emails in my inbox and deal with whatever issue must be addressed… signing forms, completing registrations, responding to requests, entering events on our family calendar… When I am done with any “call to action” items in an email it is filed away as a reference email only to be looked at again if something triggers a question or recollection of something I need to review.
My email has numerous folders, arranged much like a file cabinet. I have a main folder for each child, with subfolders for school and their major activities. For example my daughter has a file named after her (her general folder), and sub folders for DMCS (her academic and general school info), School Sports/Activities (info for extracurriculars at DMCS), VSA (soccer, her big commitment), and Church (her small group and other church related). My folders for her look like this…
When I am done reading and responding to emails for her I file them away in one of her categories or under her general folder (Addison). I no longer have all of those reference emails cluttering my inbox, but can easily find them if needed. I use this method for each of my kids and have other folders for bills, online orders/receipts, work emails….)
My email Inbox is truly only for emails that I still need to take action on. This prevents me from opening the same email a million times to see if I have dealt with the important items, or letting important emails get so far down in my inbox list that they are forgotten until it is too late to deal with them properly.
One additional thing that I regularly do to help with my kids’ folders is using the “pin to top” or “flag” options. For example, the email from my daughter’s soccer team mom with our season game schedule is flagged and “pinned to the top” so that it will be the top email in her VSA folder until this season is over. When we get emails for the upcoming week or tournament I flag those emails so I can quickly refer to them for details I don’t want to include in my family calendar… like jersey color, link to the tournament website and game results… The weekend of the tournament I can quickly find the email I need and then I simply unflag it when the weekend is over.
It may sound like a lot of work to set up email folders, but I promise it brings so much peace of mind to know you have dealt with all the important stuff and reference information is easily accessible! If you have thousands of emails in your inbox and this feels daunting… don’t go back and sort or delete them all. Simply create an Archive July 2021 folder and move everything from your inbox that is from July 2021 or older into that archive folder. You haven’t deleted the emails or lost them forever, but you will eliminate the crippling inbox clutter that prevents you from knowing you have all your emails under control. You will have an inbox that you can manage and keep clutter free from August 2021 forward!