Happy New Year to all of my wonderful readers!

Today marks the first Tidy Tuesday in the new Tidy ’24 series, where we’ll focus on a single topic for a whole month and do one action per week to make progress in that area. To kick off the party, we’re starting with email this month.

Email Week 1: Archive Everything

This task will seem familiar to those of you who were already on the Tidy Tuesday newsletter in 2023 because I wrote about it just last week in my end-of-year message. I’m covering it again as the starting point for the whole series and the first step of Email Month because it’s a great way to begin.

Action Steps:

  1. Go to your inbox.
  2. Select all messages there: read/unread, new, old, everything.
  3. Move them to a new folder (or label, in Gmail) named “Archive 2023” or whatever makes sense to you.

It’s often easiest to do this on a desktop or laptop computer instead of a smartphone because of how the interface is designed. Depending on which email system you’re using, such as Gmail, Outlook, or Apple Mail, the exact steps may require a few extra clicks to select messages not shown on the first page or confirm the bulk “move” operation. In Gmail, you might need to do it in two steps: first, to assign the new label, and second, to archive them (which removes the “Inbox” label).

If you have any questions about how to do this in your email client, feel free to comment on this page or on this week’s Tidy Bytes Community FB group post. I’ll happily add more detail, send screenshots, or whatever you need.

How Does This Help?

Our email inboxes are the “front line” between us and the rest of the internet. It’s where other people have the most direct access to our eyes and ears, so we should be extra careful to guard against noise and distraction. Some of us have hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of messages in our inboxes. Returning to Inbox Zero–the magical state where we have nothing in our inbox–seems utterly impossible.

But it isn’t.

Inbox Zero is like a clean desktop, or a kitchen counter without anything on it, or a bedroom with everything put away. It’s a temporary state, but it allows us to focus on other tasks without the distraction of clutter and chaos.

Imagine a horde of people outside your home, all clamoring to come inside to show you things, sell you things, make you read or watch things. Archiving your entire inbox is like slamming the door on them. They won’t all just go away, but it gives you a chance to enjoy the silence for a brief moment so that you can more easily consider the next steps. (WEEK 2 SPOILER: UNSUBSCRIBE!) 💥

Who Does This Help?

An annual “archive everything in the inbox” step is most beneficial if you have hundreds of messages or more in your inbox, and you’re the type of person who feels a psychological weight from this–wishing you didn’t have so much email to deal with.

At first, it feels like cheating, but remember that this isn’t about sweeping things under the rug. Archiving all emails older than right now is not about pretending that email doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean you can’t go back and deal with that email later if you need to, or even if you want to. It’s about setting aside something that’s weighing you down so that you can build better habits in a space that makes it easy to do so.

Who Does This NOT Help?

Those who are already on top of their email and keep their inboxes empty (or nearly so) will obviously not benefit from a “bulk archive” step. Or, if the email messages in your inbox–however old–are genuinely critical to your business or personal relationships, and you believe setting them aside in an archive folder will make you unable to fulfill essential responsibilities, that’s a valid concern.

However, most of us are not in this situation. Avoid the temptation to say, “This won’t work for me,” without an excellent justification for that choice.

Quick Review

Thanks for joining me at the beginning of this Tidy ’24 journey, where we’re starting with a focus on email for all of January. For Week 1, your task is to archive everything. If you have questions about this task or anything related to digital organization, just reply to this email or comment on the Tidy Bytes Community Facebook group post for this week.

If you’re not already subscribed, make sure to join the weekly newsletter email list with the simple form below. You can also bookmark the Tidy ’24 Agenda page for a master list of every currently published Tidy ’24 topic.

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