The "Life-changing" Magic of a Simpler Inbox

Melissa Moody
December 5, 2022

It’s not easy to achieve simplicity in our hectic modern lives. 

There is an obvious, ongoing, and constant overload of information in today’s world that causes stress and anxiety for many people.  In turn, we turn to formal techniques such as the KonMari Method or informal internet recommendations for how to live more simply or be more productive. In the end, the goal is to reduce clutter, both mental and physical. 

A recent article on Lifehack describes the practice of mental compartmentalization, which enables you to “enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on.” Sounds lovely, right? CEO and Founder of Lifehack, Leon Ho, notes the strategy can improve mental health and productivity.

The concept of compartmentalization is pretty straightforward. By setting clear boundaries and focusing on a smaller set of information, we become empowered to respond to that which matters most. This technique may be used not just in our minds, but to address the world around us as well.

Consider one area of your world that is mostly likely jam-packed with less-than-critical detritus: your email inbox.  

Compartmentalize for clarity in your inbox. 

Let’s not just organize our minds and our drawers, but our inbox as well. We can focus on emails that are relevant to our goals and our interests by using a system of compartmentalization, keeping lower-priority “asks” and irrelevant messages out of sight and out of mind.

Try using one (or more) of the following levers: 

  • Time - Set boundaries with your time, addressing high-priority emails only between certain hours. This idea of focused time relates to the concept of Deep Work, as coined by author Cal Newport.
  • Separation - Manually remove the items that are not important, by dragging irrelevant messages to the trash or manually unsubscribing every so often. Though this may be effective, it often ends up being yet another task on your already-full plate. 
  • Prioritization - Create filters to highlight (color) or prioritize that which is important. 
  • Automation - Don’t even look at unwanted emails in the first place.  With improvements in automation and technology, solutions today allow you to compartmentalize without lifting a finger. Gated is a product that automatically ensures you don’t even have to see emails that are not valuable for your time, reducing the volume of unwanted emails in your inbox by an average of 46% without having to lift a finger. 

Small changes make a big difference. 

According to Gated user Tanner Lacey, Co-Founder of Spiff, the change after using Gated has been powerful:   “The amount of noise Gated has decreased in my email is almost literally life-changing.”

Any strategy we use to get rid of the clutter that fills our minds, our kitchen drawers, and our email inboxes is a good one.  A clean inbox can reduce the burden on mental health and productivity. Because when that mess is reduced, we can breathe more freely, our minds are less scattered, and we find ourselves spending time on what matters. What kind of impact might this have on your life?

Published Feb 2021

Updated December 2022