Tame the Inbox. Prepare for the Worksheet Tsumani. (And Other Modern-Day Hurculean Tasks)

Last week, I reduced the number of emails in my personal inbox to 12.  I felt like I had slayed a dragon, which is somewhat of a self-congratulatory statement, but people, do you get swarmed with emails like I do?  (I hope you don't because I have a genuine fondness for you, my reader, and getting swarmed with emails is like getting swarmed by locusts, minus the end-of-days vibe.)

These emails just keep coming.  They continually appear.  One right after another.  More always arrive.  They don't stop.  They never end.  It's never-ending.

Some emails can be deleted on sight, of course.  Some automatically get filtered into little folders that I've created and named in the attempt to streamline this facet of life.  (You know, so I can ignore them from afar.)  But some emails require actual reading -- and, even more strenuous -- some require not only reading, but actual thinking and responding.

This latter category is where I struggle.  I'm quite good at reading an email and then responding to it in my head without legitimately responding with spoken or typed words, like I'm sending my message via mental telepathy, which is even less reliable than homing pigeon.  Certain days, I also excel at reading an email, recognizing that a response is being demanded from me, ascertaining that it's not urgent, and then copping-out by closing it and thinking, "I'll respond to that later."

That is how you build up an inbox with hundreds of messages, my friends.

For the record, I never struggle with keeping on top of my work email account.  I ride that wave just fine, thank you, partially because it's earmarked as work.  Since almost all of my work is time-sensitive, I'm automatically trained to knock it out, stat.

No, it's just my personal and blogging email accounts, which morph into one inky black hole of messages about school picnics, summer camp registration deadlines, overdue library books, school cafeteria account balances, dress codes for a child's end-of-year field trip, upcoming Girl Scouts meetings and tumbling events, requests for me to review products on my blog even though I don't write product reviews on my blog, one rogue Bath and Body Works sale update that somehow didn't get filtered to my "shopping" folder, and friendly messages or forwarded stories from my dad.

Last week as I regarded that tangled web of messages, I got serious.  Enough was enough.  I plowed through my inbox savagely, responding and deleting, deleting and responding.  I added items to my calendar, even.  (Except for those events and deadlines that I had already missed, at which point shrugged it off as one less thing to deal with, before deleting and marching onward.)

I slayed the dragon.  I tamed the beast.  I reduced the inbox to a singular page -- and less than a full one, at that.

It's good timing, too, as any parent of school-aged children knows.  Because in the next few weeks as school comes to a close, all of the papers and worksheets and projects that teachers have carefully filed away during the 180-day school year will be sent home, crumpled of course, in your children's backpacks where, upon reaching your house, they'll be splayed across every flat surface -- your kitchen table, the hallway, the family room floor -- until your home resembles a snow globe classroom that's been vigorously shaken, until you're convinced that your children's school paperwork is infinite, until you finally figure out a filing system, or dump everything into a box to sort later, or just throw it all out.  Because you know, deep in your heart, that another school year will eventually begin, and with it, a new influx of paperwork and emails.

Me: Empty your backpack.
Her: Done.

Yes, those days are coming, but for now, I'm resting in the fact that at least I'm on top of my inbox.

For now.  

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