Items Lingering in Your Inbox

Items that linger in your inbox sap your effectiveness. The longer they remain, the more pressure, guilt, or distraction you will feel and the less effective you will be.

Things linger in your inbox because

  1. You have not decided what specifically to do about them,
  2. Each might contain something important you should know, save,  or act on, and
  3. You think your inbox is the best place to keep these items so you don’t forget about them.

To clear lingering inbox items, MOD them. That is, review each one to get it out of your inbox and into your task system where important items belong. Invest the time to see what each item really means to you. Then decide, as David Allen says, if you will “do, delegate, defer, or delete” each item. Since lingering items seem to multiply in your inbox, you may spend quite a few hours over several days to MOD them all.

Once you’ve productively cleared your inbox, drop me a line. I’d love to know how you did and what you noticed.


In your corner,



PS: Spoiler alert! Clearing your inbox can feel unexpectedly good. Worth the effort.


4 thoughts on “Items Lingering in Your Inbox

  1. I like this post – but immediately extended its meaning to my mental inbox. I think that’s in more need of decluttering than my email! Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    1. Ha! Good catch. I had meant “inbox” to refer to email and any other physical inbox (such as a pile of papers). “Inbox” of course refers to your mental lists, flotsam, and whatnot as well.


  2. I just went through the really old items in my inbox and forced myself to make decisions about what I needed to do. Accepting that I wasn’t going to action some items was really tough, but an important step.

    1. Building that habit of pausing and choosing what to do with each item will pay off. Honestly? It’s still a struggle for me AND I’m seeing things getting better and better as I build this habit. Keep going!


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