How to Declutter Your Inbox and To-Do Lists

How to Declutter Your Inbox and To-Do Lists

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I tend to make a lot of lists. At least I used to before I developed a system for organising and reducing the various lists and to-do items that I have.

For some reason, I also like to have an empty email inbox. I like to move all the emails that I have actioned out to separate folders or delete emails that I don’t need, only keeping the ones that are yet to be actioned.

Throughout a regular day, various thoughts, ideas and things that need to be done pop into my head. My old “system” was to either to try and remember things until I had time to do them, while at the same time subconsciously feeling anxious that I had to do something and didn’t have enough time to do it or even worse, forgetting what I wanted to get done completely. After numerous failings using this system, I then tried to write things down, using apps like Evernote and Google Keep, putting different items on different lists.

So what is the solution that worked for me? Well, it took a lot of trial and error before I stumbled on something that worked best for me. The system is simple and you can implement it in an hour or two.


How to Declutter Your Inbox and To-Do Lists (and lower your anxiety)


To-Do Lists

Step 1:

Combine all the various lists that you have, be it on paper, in note keeping apps, or wherever else you have lists of items and put them into one long list. I use Google Keep because I have an Android phone but I’m sure other apps are just as good. The main thing to consider is what is convenient for you and what you can access all the time.

Step 2:

Once you have combined all of your lists into one long list of items, write down headings titled: Category 1, Category 2, Category 3…though to Category 10.

Step 3:

Go through each item on your combined to-do list and do one of the following; either place it in one of the categories (category 1 items are the most important and category 10 items being least important) or delete it.

Example: Sometimes it’s hard to delete an item like “learn Spanish” when it’s been on your to-do list for years. So give it some thought. Is it really something that you want to do? If it is, then is it something that you want to do now, this year? If so, then make it an actionable goal of yours. However, if it’s something that you would like to do but it’s not a priority right now, then just delete it. It’ll make your life feel that little bit less crowded. Trust me. (If you really can’t bear to delete it then just put it down in one the lower categories so it doesn’t appear up the top).

Step 4:

Make it a priority to look through your list on a weekly basis and pick one or two things from the category 1 items to do that week. Don’t be tempted to look at category 2 or 3 items. If they were deserving of your time right now then they should be on the category 1 list.

That’s it! Enjoy the feeling that comes with being in control of your lists and things that you need to do.


Email Inbox

Similarly to my advice for to-do lists, the key here is to develop one, simple system.

Step 1:

I use Gmail and I cleaned my inbox by assigning the following labels to all emails that needed my attention:

  • Category 1
  • Category 2
  • Category 3
  • To Read/Watch

I don’t think you need all 10 categories for emails as the less important ones should just be deleted cause if you ever do get around to reading them then they will likely be useless and redundant by that time.

Step 2:

Move out your emails from your inbox so that they can only be found under their relevant label. That’s it! You’ve successfully cleaned up your email inbox and your life should feel that little bit more in control.

That’s it! You’ve successfully cleaned up your email inbox and your life should feel that little bit more in control.


Do you have any tips that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.




One response to “How to Declutter Your Inbox and To-Do Lists”

  1. Mrs. ETT says:

    I love lists, and I hate email. I tend to cycle through systems for keeping lists – my latest is simply using Notes on the iPad with checkboxes. Whatever I don’t complete on one day gets cut from the bottom of that day’s list and pasted to the next day. Eventually if something has been hanging around for too long and I haven’t done it, I just delete it all together. I get so much email at work that I don’t have time to action, that I totally neglect my email at home – a quick scan for important stuff, then shut it down. Occasionally I will have a massive cull all in one go.

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