Even if you're not a disciple of Marie Kondo's method of organization, you've likely heard of her by now. She's the Japanese organization consultant behind The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. In the New York Times best-selling book, she teaches her approach to reducing your number of possessions and organizing your home. Fast Company called her "the Beyoncé of Organization."
For many, there's a far more pressing and dire clutter situation that has nothing to do with knickknacks or junk drawers. It doesn't even involve tangible things. You may suffer from it yourself. It's our email inboxes.
The elusive inbox zero seems ever-more-impossible to reach. Old unanswered emails, new ones always coming in...it's seriously stressful and often an enemy to productivity. Reply All, a podcast about the internet, even created a fake holiday called Email Debt Forgiveness Day to help combat the anxiety our emails cause.
But every day can't be Email Debt Forgiveness Day, so we turn to Marie Kondo, who shared her tips for organizing your digital life with Fortune.
1. Keep your online filing system simple
In her book, Kondo suggests you contain all papers in your home in only three folders: needs immediate attention, must be kept for now, and must be kept forever. This makes it extremely easy to find anything you're looking for at a moment's notice.
She recommends you take the same approach with categorizing your emails. No need for folders with sub-folders, then sub-sub folders. While that may seem hyper organized, it's just creating unnecessary complexity. Streamline your categorization of your emails with a simplified approach. Kondo has two: "Unprocessed" and "Save."
2. Get in the email zone
Kondo recommends reading and replying to emails and other messages all at once. Instead of spending a few minutes here, a few minutes there, she says you can be much more productive if you are completely focused on the task at hand. Try to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible so as not to waste any time.
3. Cut ties
To organize your physical things, Kondo recommends you donate or discard any item that does not spark joy when you touch it. Emails are not a tangible thing, thus cannot spark joy. If you don't need the email anymore, she gives you permission to delete it.
4. Remove as many distractions as possible
One reason why your emails may be causing you so much stress? Your iPhone dings every time you receive one, which cuts your focus from whatever you were doing. Silence your phone or even go so far as to turn off notifications. If you're following step two and dedicating focused time to reading and responding to emails, there's no need to get notified every time a new one hits your inbox.