Clear Email Clutter and Keep a Clean Inbox

Email can take over our lives - keep a clean inbox.What does it take to clear email clutter and keep a clean inbox?

Whether it is a page of physical or electronic paper, the time management experts tell us that to be efficient we need to work toward handling items once rather than coming back to the same things over and over. I used to put a dot in the corner of a sheet of paper every time I touched it to see how I was doing. That got a bit discouraging. I finally just threw everything on my desk away and lit a match.

Probably not a good idea for you or me.

Even if email isn’t your favorite way to communicate, a lot of important business shows up in your inbox. Some of your best customers and friends do prefer email for getting things done and maintaining relationships. Some of the messages that hit your inbox really do matter to you professionally and personally.

Most email programs have helpful tools to block spam (and designated relatives) and to direct requested promotional emails and certain kinds of repetitive messages to “smart folders.” That helps, but if you’re like me, you still have a ton of email messages that come through and have to be dealt with manually – no matter how smart those folders are.

If you’re like me you also hate to see the messages stack up – and might be tempted to procrastinate or ignore important messages even more.

But clearing the clutter is not an impossible task. Just remember four letters to see a clean, manageable inbox today.

T is for TRASH

Like magazines, catalogs, and coupons in days gone by, I am tempted to hold on to messages that I might want to “get to” later. Be realistic. If it’s an oil change special, another one will show up when you need it. Hit delete. If it’s the funniest joke you’ve ever heard, there are two ways to act on it – read on – but otherwise, trash it. There will be a whole slew of funny jokes again tomorrow. And kitten videos. And inspirational videos. If you aren’t going to act on it now, get rid of it.

R is for REFER

If work colleagues, family, friends, and special lists you keep need to receive the message, simply hit forward with appropriate (short) comment and then trash it. What if you want to come back to it? You can find it in your sent folder without cluttering your inbox.

A is for ACT

Does someone need single piece of information? Send it now. Is there an event invite? Put it on your calendar and RSVP or decline. Did a friend get a big promotion? Send a quick congrats right now. If these calls to action are interrupting something important you are working on now, you shouldn’t have been looking at email anyway. Your bigger issue may be learning when to check your email – and just as importantly, when not to. You might need to schedule two blocks of time in the morning and two in the afternoon when you are “allowed” to look at the inbox in order to stay on task. This is particularly important for me on “writing days” – when the going gets tough it’s easy to look for justifiable distractions.

F is for FILE

Do you get articles related to your industry that you want or need to refer back to? Set up a specific file folder for these items in your email manager. Like to hold receipts? Ditto. Jokes? Yep. If you have several big active projects that are generating a lot of information and calls to action, segment those messages by dragging them into temporary folders – which you will delete when the project is done.

If you’ve got hundreds of unread messages, there is a good chance you can start with the letter T and trash a bunch of them right now. A clean inbox will save you from missing messages that really matter.

Quotes for Readers

Mark Gilroy is a reader.

I am a reader – and I love readers!

I’m not sure what I’ve actually every accomplished in life – though I’m very proud of my six kids and maybe that’s all that matters.

I’m not sure what I’m good at. Good reviews on my novels – I’ve published some books that have sold millions – but there have been so many others and so many blessings associated with any successes, I’m not sure what I can take credit for.

But one thing I know for sure is I like to read books. I’m a reader.

Enough so that I’ve tried to make a living in the business of books. For you MBA students, book publishing might be the second oldest profession known to humankind. That indicates book publishing is a mature industry.

But that hasn’t really dissuaded me from the path paved by paper and ink.

No only do I read them, I’ve tried to write them; I’ve tried to edit them; I’ve tried to title them and get them designed in a way to attract the attention of other readers; I’ve tried to launch them with such skill and passion that people’s lives are changed—and a few authors get rich.

I’m a reader and I love readers.

No wonder I get teary-eyed when I read quotable quotes for and from authors and readers.

Enjoy a few!

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.

George R.R. Martin

Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.


There is no friend as loyal as a book.

Ernest Hemingway

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.

Henry David Thoreau

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

Oscar Wilde

I still love books. All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.

Ray Bradbury

Be awesome! Be a book nut!

Dr. Seuss

I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.

Abraham Lincoln

The ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.

Malcolm X

When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue—you sell him a whole new life.

Christopher Morley

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.

Ernest Hemingway

A book is a gift you can open again and again.

Garrison Keillor

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.

Frederick Douglass

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.

Victor Hugo

So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well: They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky.

William James

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.

Jacqueline Kennedy

We who have been true readers all our life fully realize the enormous of our being which we owe to authors.

C.S. Lewis

Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators.

Albert Camus

Social Network Numbers in 2014

What are the social network numbers in 2014? Just how many people are using Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, and more?

The social network numbers are staggering. There are 7.2 billion people on planet Earth – the top 21 social networks have a combined 5.7 billion user profiles. More than a third of the world population now has access to the internet.

Some people still argue that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the other top networks are huge time wasters. Maybe so. But the numbers tell a story. To dismiss social networking as irrelevant feels similar to the great Yogi Berra quote: “No one goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded.”

Whether you join a network because it’s the newest craze, to connect with old and new friends, to entertain, to be entertained, to market and sell, to buy – or some combination that includes other reasons, here is what is happening in the universe of social networks in 2014.

social network usage in 2014

Created by Jeremy Waite, head of social strategy at Adobe. For more analysis click here.

A Prayer for When You Feel Overwhelmed

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

God of Strength,

I am not handling all that I am facing very well at the moment. I feel there is too much to be done and too little of me to do it. I am falling behind. I feel like an excessive burden is always on my shoulders. There is so much to be done that I’m not accomplishing much of anything.

First of all, I pray that you help me look at my life realistically and remove some unimportant tasks. Help me to simplify appropriately. Second, I pray that you would give me a spirit that is willing to accept challenges and work hard to meet them. If my work ethic is not where it should be, I ask for more determination and resolve.

If I am in trouble because I procrastinate help me to get busy now. I pray also that you will bring people into my life that will help me shoulder the load. Strengthen me in every area of my life so that the tasks before me don’t feel so heavy and simply aren’t as hard.

But most of all I pray that you would be my helper. I pray that in every task I would be aware of your presence. Help me understand that you will not allow more to come into my life than I can handle.

I pray this in the strong name of Jesus – Amen


To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us—and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.

— Thomas Merton

a prayer for a job promotion is from God's Help For Your Every Need, written by Mark Gilroy, published by Howard Books.From God’s Help by Mark Gilroy Published by Howard Books (Simon and Schuster), 2012

Convictions and Civility – How to Have Strong Beliefs and Get Along With Others

Convictions and Civility combine to create Communication.

How do you engage in disagreement?

Convictions and civility.

I wish I could take credit for what I called the 5 Cs of Engagement with my kids as they grew up. I wanted them to hold firmly to their beliefs (convictions) but do so in such a way that they could communicate effectively and get along well with others (civility).

I picked up the concept – and have probably butchered it to some degree – from Martin Marty’s hard-to-find little book, By Way of Response, published in 1981.

In today’s political landscape I am reminded that the 5 Cs of Engagement aren’t just a lesson to try to impart to my kids, but a reminder of what I need to season my interaction with in a world where many people don’t believe the same way I do.

Here’s how simple it is. But be warned, putting it into practice is much harder.

Convictions without civility lead to conflict.

Civility without convictions leads to personal compromise.

Convictions and civility lead to communication.

Does that guarantee true dialog, mutual respect and understanding, and a fair hearing for all? Probably not in today’s climate of political, cultural, and religious debate where straw men are erected and slain; ad hominem attacks (attacking the person, not debating the idea) are flung capriciously; false dichotomies, half-truths, ad ignorantiam (taking advantage of people’s ignorance of a topic), and a host of other logical fallacies are the rule, not the exception. Maybe worse, is the move to preemptively silence opinions and arguments before they are even spoken with a priori claims that the uttering of the thought is illegal or immoral – usually by setting up a false dichotomy or straw man.

But ultimately, we are only responsible for our own conduct in handling debate and disagreement.

In the words of the Apostle Paul: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV).