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The Zen of Inbox Zero

What most people don't realize about me is that I'm incredibly organized.  

I have to have a clear and clutter-free desktop (both on my computer and physically) and even my emails have to be cleared from my inbox.

I don't mean deleting them--I mean the zen of having a place for everything and filing it away to its place like you would with your various papers in life and your office.  This has a few benefits to me, and others who subscribe to the philosophy.  First off, to move an email to its corresponding folder means you've dealt with it and if you need to deal with it again later, it is easily found in the folder.  Mind you, using Gmail also has another benefit which is the search utility, but I still like to organize it all into the various folders and sometimes even subfolders because I like knowing... just knowing... where things are.

To open my inbox and only see emails that I haven't dealt with (or none at all) leaves me with this sense of peace that I have managed to muddle my way through my daily business.  The junk is gone and all I have saved is the business I need to keep and that business is where it needs to be.

My personal office is kept like this as well, as is other aspects of my life.  I'm a minimalist, so I don't own a whole lot of clothes and things are kept organized.  My office space is dealt with so that there is zero clutter anywhere and if I need to find something I know where it is and whether I even have it or not.

But you're here about my inbox and how I keep it organized.

If you're going to subscribe to inbox zero, especially after not doing so for years, you have quite a bit of work ahead of you but you will thank yourself for it after.

The first thing you need to do is decide on the big categories--the broad ones where you can quickly do a sort into these categories and then get rid of any junk still hanging around.  A good example of broad categories (using mine) are:

Government (*there is a reason this is separate from Accounting)
Art Commissions
Professional Development

Your broad categories may be different because your industry could be different, but since mine is all about art and writing (both as a freelancer & published novelist) these are mine.  If there is a date, such as a deadline, a bill I need to pay (and its due date) or an event I need to remember to go to, I immediately add those dates into my calendar as well as the applicable link (if there is one) and all other pertinent details into the calendar entry.

Once you have managed to sort everything into their broad categories, you will immediately notice that things are a whole lot easier to handle.  Firstly, your inbox will be empty... completely empty.  In a way, it's because you've now dealt with everything, or organized at least when you need to deal with it and have the details of such where you need it instead of rummaging through your inbox.

As I said, there's a certain zen of suddenly having all that organized and knowing that you have it done... even this much.  It could even be enough for you and you could stop right here.

However, if you've come this far...

You may as well figure out if some of those can become a subfolder of another category, or if some of the categories need a subfolder.  For example, my Accounting folder became:

Accounting - AR
Accounting - AP
Accounting - Expenses
Accounting - Taxes
Accounting - Marketing/Ads
Accounting - Bank Statements (I went paperless)

As you can imagine, my accountant loves me for this.

My other folders are further sub-categorized by creating folders for each client (for art commissions and freelancing), by each publisher I'm published through (in the Publishers), and the different agencies I deal through for the Publicity, etc.  This does make my email account more of a virtual filing cabinet than a catch-all, but it's so much easier to deal with than the chaos an always full inbox used to be.

Basically, I have that same sense of peace and organization that someone else would over looking at their neatly filed cabinet.

Do I organize my computer the same way?

In short, yes.  I use Google Drive as a cloud back-up, but my hard drive and externals are organized the same way.  I have quite a bit more to organize outside of my writing inbox so the need to keep it organized is critical and knowing it's organized helps make the day easier to handle.

Do I suggest you do the same?  Well, yes, but it's entirely up to you.  If your system is working, then by all means continue to use it.  This is just what I do.


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