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One of my students had almost 100,000 emails in her inbox.  Every time she looked at her phone, her GMAIL icon illustrated the ridiculous number.  I asked her how it made her feel.  Her reply was, ‘stressed and guilty.’  The reality was that some of those emails were years old and frankly, those people were not expecting a reply from her at this point.  It was time to delete, delete, delete.

Get organized now… When it comes to organization and productivity, there is both a physical and an emotional cause an effect to any modicum of disorganization.

Anyone with thousands of emails in their inbox is sending a loud clear message that:

  1. They are disorganized.
  2. They procrastinate.
  3. They are poor communicators.
  4. They are likely overwhelmed.
  5. They operate from guilt.

Having an email inbox with an exorbitant number of emails is stressful.  When I am coaching my clients, and students, to delete, many struggle with the sense of obligation to somehow return all of those emails.

Consider this – research by McKinsey Global Institute found that we spend 13 hours per week on email!

The average time to scan an email is approximately 15-20 seconds.  That does not include response time.  For my student to simply read 100,000 emails it would take her about 157 days, or half a year, based on reading emails for eight hours per day, and that does not include replying to any of them.  What could you do with half a year?

The reality is that not all of our emails are valuable and holding onto them because of some sense of non-reciprocated obligation is a fallacy.  In fact, many of them do not warrant a reply.  The questions become:

  • How do I sort them?
  • Who should I reply to?
  • What do I delete?

With this in mind, here are 5 steps to release guilt and start deleting:

  1. Sort your in-box by sender. If you have multiple chains from the same person, delete all but the last one.  If you have marketing emails, store coupons, or anything soliciting you – delete it!
  1. Sort your in-box by date. Delete anything that is over two months old unless it is financial such as charitable donation receipts, legal agreements, or anything to do with money.
  1. Create folders. You might have one for your children’s school, work, accounting, etc.
  1. Flag VIP’s. If someone is a potential client, current client, your child’s teacher, or anyone with whom you MUST correspond, flag those emails.  You will answer them first.
  1. Delete the rest. Put on some music, pour a glass of wine, or lemon water, and start deleting.  Deleting emails is an amazing catharsis for the soul.

Email is essential for business communication. There is a big difference between being inundated and being informed. Check out Susan’s newest video for tips on effective email communication.


Susan Sly is a productivity coach, best-selling author, keynote speaker, entrepreneur, and mother of five.  She has appeared on CNN, Fox, CNBC, Lifetime, and been quoted in Forbes.  To work with Susan, please visit this link.



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