Start the year off right: empty your email and take some time off from Twitter/Facebook

Want to get a fresh start on the new year? Here’s a few quick tips:

– Start the year off with an empty inbox in Gmail. It’s pretty simple to do: you assign a label for everything in your inbox right now, then archive everything so your inbox is empty. You can still dig into that label if you want to work down your email backlog, but it feels great to start the new year fresh. Follow the steps to declare a lightweight email bankruptcy, with the chance of still responding to those emails down the road.

– Do a one week (or one month!) digital cleanse by staying off Twitter and Facebook. I think I’ve said before that if you want to fill five minutes, Twitter is a great way to fill 35 minutes. Sometimes I end up spending more time on Twitter than I mean to, so last year I took a week off from Twitter, which turned into a month off. It’s easier than you might think–why not try a digital cleanse yourself? I’m going to do this digital cleanse for at least a while.

Also think about what you want from this year. Resolutions work for some people and not for others. But if you come up with even a single area you’d like to explore more, it helps you to recognize those opportunities throughout the year.

In 2009 for example, I went on 10-11 trips. When I looked back, I realized that they’d all been inside the United States. So one of my goals for 2010 was to get out to other countries more. I ended up visiting Asia with my wife, taking a work-related trip to Europe, visiting Mexico with my wife, and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa with friends. I wouldn’t have done so many of those trips if I hadn’t set a goal in the back of my mind.

So think about your goals for the new year. Lots of people want to get their finances in better shape or have goals about losing weight/getting fit. Speaking as someone who has lost 35-40 pounds in the last few years and kept it off for ~3 years, my main recommendation is to look for small changes that you think you can sustain for the rest of your life.

But you could also ponder all sorts of directions you’d like to explore. Maybe you’d like to work on being happier this year. Maybe you’d like to improve your skills. If you’re a left-brained person, maybe you could get in touch with your creative side by learning to draw, sing, dance, play guitar, etc. Maybe you want to practice being thankful, or widen your circle of friends. Or spend more time with family. You could even break your goals down into 30 day challenges.

But I think the main thing is to do some thinking about where you’d like to go this year. It can really pay off. What sorts of goals do you have for the new year?

61 Responses to Start the year off right: empty your email and take some time off from Twitter/Facebook (Leave a comment)

  1. Definitely setting a goal to do a twitter cleanse starting January 7th. Information is great, but information overload is what causes lack of clarity and focus. On May 1st, 2010 I deleted facebook and have gotten back so much of my valuable time back to focus on doing what I love, Android and Java development. Hoping that Twitter cleanse will free up some more time to start a new hobby, to read more books.

    Thanks Matt & Happy New Year!

  2. Happy New Year Matt,
    I’m off to give myself a digi detox. Great Idea.

  3. Setting up goals is very important, it sets out the month or year planned out for you. Twitter and Facebook can be a big big big distraction, I can imagine how many hours or days i would have saved without them in 2010.

  4. I love the idea of a digital cleanse too. Thanks Matt.
    I think it’s time to hit that Power button:

    Happy New Year!

  5. I saw something last night that said that only 15% of New Year’s resolutions are actually fulfilled. Sounds about right.

    I’m loving the idea of the clean slate on the inbox…but, I think one of MY emails may be in your email inbox, so I cannot condone deleting it. After you’ve read it, of course, then delete away!

    After finally finding full-time employment (after 2 1/2 years), 2011 will be the year of everything coming together. Becoming financially strong (and not having that “can’t afford it” cloud in the back of every thought) means the world to my sons and I. That financial-elephant that was standing on my chest? GONE.

    To say that I’m grateful seems utterly inadequate. I’m overjoyed, grinning from ear-to-ear and feel like a princess in one of those Disney movies with the birds and forest creatures all around her.

    See? Now I’m getting all misty. Happy 2011!

  6. Hey Matt

    Wish you and Mrs. Cutts much quality time.

    Last time you went “digital cleanse”, you unsubscribed to Robert Scoble on both Twitter and FriendFeed. Any specific person on mind to unsubscribe to this time? πŸ™‚

  7. Good advice. I might try a couple 30 day challenges. Although, it’s kind of funny that I came across your post on Twitter, which is a violation of the digital cleansing principle!

  8. Matt, love the comment about “making small changes”…it’s so important…when I made my first move to the bay area, I decided to make a life change about my health and it was so important to make small changes to my daily lifestyle…but over time…those small changes turned into a major change to the way I think about my health and food.

    I’ve definitely set my goals up for this year and looking to making some small changes that help me achieve those goals!

  9. I would like to have a website in top position for at least 30 days and I would like to don’t wait the pagerank export during 30 days.

  10. Happy new year Matt! I would love to empty my gmail inbox – what a great idea. But unfortunately I think climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is more likely! How about I just try to minimize it the in-box to start the year fresh.

  11. Happy New year,
    As a freelancer its hard to take out quality time, and that you have just started with freelancing. made some resolutions and started working on it. have to admit that freelancing is not too easy

  12. Just found your blog. Really good tips, but I can’t stay off Twitter. Too addicted! πŸ˜‰

  13. I disagree with taking a break from Twitter and Facebook. Those who are truly wasting large amount of time could benefit from it, but if you have self control I don’t see a problem.

  14. Happy New Year Matt!!!

    I try to clean out my gmail daily. Definitely feels great!

    I have a goal of doing 3 triathlons this year πŸ™‚ Starting with this one in Lanikai, Oahu Plus this 21k – Xterra Trail Run

    I think it will be a great way to stay focused on my health.

    You should fly over to Hawaii and join me πŸ˜‰

  15. Happy New Year Matt,

    Being a SEO Analyst its hard to take even a day off from checking SERP, bit of on page optimization or submit something to social media. It just happen, my wife says I even click on mouse while sleeping.

    Any way I did emptied my inbox (took me over 2 hours to sort things out), took one day off from even touching the computer (YES I HAVE DONE IT!).

    Wish you the best for year 2011.

  16. Matt should we take 30 days off of Google also??

  17. Happy New Year to Mr and Mrs Matt Cutts and others in Google family.

    I sincerely shall try your suggestions, from this day, as a freelancer am new to the field and subject, hence, hope to receive good suggestions and guidance from your blog

    Thanks again


  18. Hi Matt
    Starting the year off with an empty inbox in Gmail seems awesome to me. I’m going to follow that.
    Happy New Year!

  19. Matt, happy new year.

    There is something that I would love to see as a google new year resolution. That is, to up the ante in the war on webspam.

    Are you aware of the troubling situation with email spam? I would say, based on many tail searches that I have performed, that the anti-spam guys “are not winning”.

    Web sites that are essentially web spams, happily live in google index and pollute it with autogenerated junk. Examples abound and can be provided upon request.

    The result of this is that good webmasters with programming backgrounds, create junk sites to caiptalize on this, instead of working on good sites, and this is very sad.

    At the very least, I would like to create a personal list of “never want to see” websites and use that list to filter my SERPs.

  20. I’m a little different than most people in that I take advantage of the holiday season to start most of my New Year’s resolutions.

    In this case, I have/had 2:

    1) Get a new web server and migrate everything over to it. Other than email (to be done today), this is taken care of.

    2) This is going to sound very simplistic, but I wanted to write my first true program this year. Basically, it’s an oDesk clone, but not for the purposes of competing with them…just to make my own billing that much easier. Other than the data component itself, I’m done.

    It’s a lot cooler to have things mostly done come January 2 because you started them December 15.

  21. By the way, what’s up with the favicon? Is that an M? I can’t tell. It also sort of looks like the top end of one of those kids’ cars with the oversized wheels.

  22. Bonnie Parrish-Kell

    I agree with you, Matt, that we can all use some downtime from Twitter, Facebook and managing email. That’s what I did this past week and it felt odd yet wonderful. Technology was touted as a means to free up our time and energies. Truth is, these fun tools sap more of our lives than we truly realize.

    Happy New Year! May your kitties continue to feed you inspiration πŸ™‚

  23. Google usually starts off new year with a PageRank update but hasn’t done it yet. And there are rumors circulating that Google has lost exclusive rights to the pagerank data. So would u like to shed some light on the situation if page rank is dead or is it still alive. Although i do realize it’s useless but it would b good 2 know.

  24. Hi Matt,

    the β€œDigital Cleanse” is a cool idea, but I think we all should archive less stuff, because otherwise we take the archives with us to the graveyard. So now i am trying to throw away as much as I can. Regards from Cologne, Germany!

    Christian Neuwerth

  25. Kimberly Hammersmith

    Yeah, im trying to do a similar thing, my aim is to not use any Google related products for the whole of 2011, I just changed my homepage from Google to Bing, and instead of using Gmail, im going back to Yahoo Mail. πŸ™‚

  26. Hi Matt,

    Cleaning my inbox definitely feels great because you get rid of all these people trying to sell you something or just plain junk. It feels great when all your emails are sorted and organize, saves you the unnecessary frustration. As for twitter and facebook, some people use it for the marketing biz so I think automating the process or setting up a timer is probably the best for me. This year I am all about building my online business and building a system that will work for me and not the other way around! Very excited as 2011 is the year of the rabbit and this is my year!

    Happy New Year to all!

  27. Happy new year! I make it a daily habit to clear my inbox. I do this so I can check my e-mail better with my phone. My resolution was to stop working 15 hour days!

  28. Is this the funny how, i get a ton of spam email in last years, and now i want to make some ebook with the title “HOW To GET A lot of SPAM in your GMAIL inBOX” lol…ahh almost forget, happy new years brothers, hope we can get a good years in 2011 πŸ™‚ ( so sweet)

  29. Hi, hepi new year. I still cannot empty my inbox coz still many unread emails there. Not all are important but i still feel uneasy to erase it..

    and about facebook and twitter, yeah already did that on twitter but not facebook, coz still wanna see what my friends are doing, especially for new year celebration.. hohoh. hah, my new year resolution will be improve my own site and do some freelancing activities..
    Hope this year will be better for all of us!

  30. Harith, I’m pretty happy with my subscriptions now.

    Totally agree, Tony. I think it’s critical to make sure that changes are sustainable, which usually means a small step, at least at first.

    MWA, here’s the reason I’m trying a new favicon: Someone made me one!

    Kimberly, any particular reason to switch to Yahoo Mail?

  31. Dear Matt,
    I wish you very happy new Year.
    I love to read your all blog post.

    I have one little question for you.

    From last 9th month your Google team not update Major Page Rank update. you know many of webmasters jobs depend on your Google page rank update. some people lost her jobs and some people facing big problem but your team very cruel and No given us Major page rank update so i request you please update major page rank.

    Please give me answer.

  32. Hey Matt, you have missed India.

    come here in your next trip…if you come then please mail me…


  33. Hello, do you will talk about the changes of google in 2011, here in your blog?

  34. Hello Matt,

    this is my first comment in your blog.

    My goals for the year 2011 are:

    – Peace and Love to all.
    – I’d like to keep happy and healthy, the rest comes naturally

  35. Hey Matt, hook us up with some pagerank update information.

  36. I learned a few years back that you have to run your business that it can’t run you. The minute you start losing that battle you will start losing the war. I say the answer is to find great people and outsource! Before I tried to do it all myself!

  37. The amazing thing about New Year’s resolutions is that when I look back over last years, I’ve achieved most of them despite the fact that I hardly referred to them after I wrote them. Perhaps the act of putting pen to paper was enough!

  38. Matt, know what I really love to start the year? See spammers and black hat seo out of Google. How can we compete with people like this? Theres no point in following all the rules, these guys pop up every month and kill all our rankings with keyword stuffing, cloaked pages, paid links, etc. Thats why so many people are doing it, it’s easy to be #1.

  39. Great post, My main aim is having more happier and positive thinking people around. This can only be achieved by eradictating the bad ones this year. Orther goals : Travelling with the wife n kid, execrising more often and the very obvious – staying fit n healthy through dieting.

  40. The clean inbox thing is really a good idea I must say. It is 2011 and so I guess it will be a nice time to do so. There have been times, when I wanted to clean up the inbox, but I was not able to do so. Why – there are so many mail πŸ˜›
    and about the cleanse… tell me about it… I sit on facebook to just check the updates, and end up spending an hour on it… not to forget the stupid games I got addicted to.

  41. Great tips. It sounds like you had a great 2010 with all of your trips – hope it’s as good in 2011.

  42. Empty my inbox? Thats crazy talk.
    The amount of times my bacon has been saved by producing a full chain of emails proving that I’ve done exactly as i’m supposed to have done, when someone says do you remember that email I sent you in 2008…, or my favourite is when people insist that something has never arrived with them and I can forward a read receipt.

  43. I’m a hoarder. I’m guilty. What if you have 10’s of thousands of e-mail’s in *your* inbox? Labeling all old e-mail would be too time consuming. Is there a way to display 1,000 e-mail’s at once on a web page?

  44. You want me to do what? Ok, I will try but I can’t promise you anything especially since I promised myself I would do more social media this year.

  45. @Robert Kahanoni: I’m not sure what Google has explicitly stated in the 10K filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission really qualifies as “rumors”. The license to the algorithm is exclusive to 2011, and I don’t know if Google has said publicly what they’re going to do. It sounded in the filing that they’re letting it become non-exclusive.

  46. Kimberly Hammersmith

    @ Matt

    Its nothing personal against you mate, im just going through a anti Google phase.

  47. i love the idea of taking some time off facebook

    i have been spending too much time on liking friends’ status

    it’s just addictive especially on holidays when everyone’s uploading tons of pictures

    but i really do want to stop facebooking and spend more time on physical activities

  48. Following these same ideas for the new year, I read the free book “Focus”, from Zen Habits, which promotes taking time off from the net at specific times of the day, in order to get things done. It also has similarities to “Eat That Frog” : shutting down the noise to get the most important things done, first time in the morning

  49. Those are tall orders Matt. I look at my parents email box and they maintain it where there is absolutely No garbage and space to be had… They read emails and then delete them. I laugh because I have never seen a used email box look like that…

    How is this for a new job: Professional Emailer

  50. It’s the 14th (two weeks) and I got mine worked down to about SIX! Not bad, considering I didn’t do the mass archive. Just flat out addressed them.

  51. Hey that’s no challenge. I’m so sick of twit’s twittering and even my neighbor’s dog has a facebook page I could puke!

    Sorry but FB just gives me the creeps and the white noise from twit’s is deafening!

  52. Just finished my two week ‘digital cleanse’ in SC. We were snowed in this past week so I got in a lot of family time. Great idea!

  53. Email bankruptcy!! Nice term. Came across this phrase for the first time in this post. A google search for this phrase returned more than 10,000,000 results. I am lagging behind… You know..

  54. Oh dear! I have only just started to use twitter so not much to clear out, yet! I will keep this in mind for next year, or sooner. But did have stacks to clear out from in box though.

  55. i love twitter but my issue is if people are twittering all day and updating there feed for their followers when are they actually doing any work? i end up wasting loads of hours on twitter and getting nothing done so have nothing to tweet about!

  56. I really like the idea of archiving the email and cleaning up my gmail account.

  57. It’s taken me a while but I’ve finally got around to clearing my inbox and archiving my emails. You know what, I feel so much happier when I log in to my GMail account! Thanks Matt

  58. HI Matt,

    How would you feel about keynoting or at least speaking at the SAOMA conference in about 6 months in S.Africsa and going on a Safari?

    I’m on the advisory board and we’ll fly you out first class. Fishkin, Naylor and a few others you know will be there as well.

    Let me know if yiour game. Its supposed to be one of the biggest (and first) of its kind in S. Africa.

    Gary Beal

  59. Ps. It July 20-22nd

    Gary Beal

  60. I made a resolution to stop all the emails from so called marketers and stick with the ones who actually provide good information. So far I haven’t had time to read through the hundreds of emails to see who sends good stuff and who doesn’t.
    I suppose lots of us are like this.