If you haven’t read our Part 1 of our new blog series, Goal Planning: How to get exactly you want, we encourage you to go read that. Because who doesn’t want to know how to get everything they want, right?

Great. Now raise your hand if this sounds like you: have thousands of unread emails in your personal email, a few hundred in your work email, and a half dozen to-do lists scattered between emails, reminders, on your calendar, and a sticky note—or twelve.

We know that life all too well. We also know that in order for you to achieve your loftiest, most audacious goals you must master the chaos of your everyday life. And that is no small feat. Especially when your work and personal life are out of balance and your analog life isn’t exactly pairing up nicely with your digital one.

To help crush the chaos that weighs you down and finally get your digital and analog life synched and your personal and work life more in balance, try these methods we use to keep our chaos in check.

Step 1: Get your Inbox to zero and keep it there

There are few things more satisfying than seeing zero emails in your inbox. If you Google “Inbox zero” you’ll find a dozen methods to get to—and stay at— inbox zero. But we want to share one quick, easy as hell way that has worked for us.

For us, it was important that our digital email tools worked across all our devices. It isn’t enough just to receive and send emails anymore.  Because we use Google Suite we use the Gmail app—even on our iPhones. It’s the most feature-rich email client and mobile app we’ve found.

However, feel free to try this out with whatever email client and mobile apps you’re using. We also strongly recommend you test out how it works for you with the tools you choose, especially when switching from desktop to mobile. Some email clients don’t synch well or they lose key features on mobile. E.g., Gmail now has a snooze function that we can’t live without but it isn’t available in either desktop or mobile Apple Mail application.

Create your folders/labels

Pro Tip: We use special characters like { } or < > to help with the hierarchy order. We also use emoji as folder icons.

Folder Labels For Business
! RIGHT NOW
[Organize / Triage]
[ Waiting ]
{ Admin }
{ Notes }
< Travel >
$ Money ‘19
Clients
– Names of clients
Newsletters
– Names of newsletters
Finances
– All previous Money + Year Folders
Past Clients
– All past clients nested

Folder Labels For Life
Finances
– Name of online bill pay
– Name of credit card
– Name of bank
Deals | Clothes
Deals | Home
Deals | Food
Travel

Set up your filters

Send everything that isn’t “mission critical” to skip the inbox and go straight to the designated label or folder. Don’t automatically mark them as read. Instead, set them as hidden unless there are unread emails. This way, you’ll be able to see when new things pop up but it won’t be distracting or feel like you *need* to read it right then. Once a day or week clean out those folders.

Mass Delete everything you don’t need

Have years of unopened newsletters? Do a search for that email address and mass delete. As long as it’s not the same email addressed that’s also used for bill pay or online shopping, then delete, delete, delete.

Pro Tip: This is a good time to set up any filters you may have missed.

Move what’s remaining in your inbox to Urgent & Triage

Everything within the last 60 days gets filed into Urgent. Everything else gets filed into Triage. Within one week, respond to, file if done, or delete everything in the Urgent File, It’s best to set a 30 or 60-minute timer and see if you can beat the clock. What you don’t get done, do the next day. But have it all cleared out by end of the week.

Do the exact same thing with the triage folder but give yourself two weeks to tackle every email in a 60 day period. That way, you’re slowly, but surely cleaning out everything that’s been living in limbo.

This also lets you batch past emails and helps you realize what you actually need to handle and what can be filed or deleted.

Pro Tip: Anything with a due date put into a digital to-do list like ASANA and keep an eye out for new folders to create, missed email filters you can make, and make a digital note of contacts you haven’t reached out to in a while.

Step 2: Bifurcate and Consolidate

Separate Work from Life

Keep your work life and your personal life separate. Google Chrome lets you set up different People Profiles which makes signing into your personal account and your work accounts a snap. The Google mobile apps also allow you to sign into different accounts easy. You can still show all the calendars and open all the documents you want, but there’s a more clear delineation of your private and work life. This is also true if you’re managing multiple inboxes for work.

To-Do List Management

Create and maintain ONE running list for your personal life and ONE for your work life. We use a Google Document under the correct “People Profile” but others may like Evernote or Dropbox for this. Whatever you use, make sure it’s something that syncs across all your devices. That way, no matter where you are and you have a moment of “I can’t forget to do x” or “I need to do this tomorrow” or “What am I supposed to do today?” you can write it down or look it up.

We use ASANA & our Google Calendar to track work or personal tasks that need to be shared across teams or have specific due dates and dependencies.

And at the end of each day (or workday), organize your lists by priority for the next day and upcoming week. Take all those paper or sticky notes you’ve got all over your desk and throw away the ones that are done, put the ones with due dates on your calendar or in your project management like ASANA. But get into the habit of consolidating your many paper and digital to-dos.

That’s it.

Let us know—will you try this in your life and if you do, how does it work for you?

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