Declutter Your Life and Your Inbox

Some of the best advice in the 4 Hour Hour Workweek revolves around the concept of elimination.

Everywhere you turn there’s a pervasive “more is better” attitude that encourages adding “stuff” to your life. As a result you spend more and more hours dealing with all this “stuff” and while you may feel productive and like you’re getting things done, all you’re really doing is creating unnecessary work – you’re not being effective.

Over the past few weeks I’ve mercilessly unsubscribed from every single email newsletter that filled my inbox. It was a surprisingly long and tedious process. It took forever to hunt down all the websites, clicks, and forms to remove myself from all the lists that I was on.

This morning I checked my email after an entire weekend and there were 6 emails, all of them easily dismissed or replied to. It took literally 5 minutes.

A few weeks ago I would have been deleting stuff left and right, clicking on links that didn’t really matter and after about 30-60 minutes I may have gotten down to the few emails that really mattered, but more than likely getting distracted over and over again. I highly recommend unsubscribing from ALL the newsletters you get – after you do it you will realize how much time you’ve been wasting and never want to go back.

I also recommend getting into the habit of checking email ONLY twice a day, once around 11 am and once around 4 pm. It’s especially important to make the first time slot a few hours after you get into the office and not the first thing in the morning. That way you can start working on something instead of getting distracted, which leads to a more productive day overall.

It took some time to get rid of all my email and a lot of discipline to ween myself off the “gotta check my email” crackpipe, but it’s already making a huge difference in my productivity and state of mind. I’ll be applying this process of elimination more and more in the coming months. Email was the first step – let’s see what else I can apply this tenet to:

Ask not what you can add to your day, but what you can take away.