10 Email Organization Tips to Help Tame Your Inbox

10 Email Organization Tips to Help Tame Your Inbox

Drowning in email? Follow these easy tips to save yourself and your sanity!

By Wendy Robinson

I was borrowing a friend’s phone the other day to check out a cool new app when I saw the icon for her email account. It showed that she had more than 8,000 messages in her inbox. 8,000!

I confess that I am a bit fastidious about email message management, so seeing that many unopened emails in one account just about gave me a heart attack. Between work and my personal accounts, I average several hundred new emails a day, so I’ve developed some rules that keep me from drowning in digital communication. Maybe my friend will read this and try some of these tips:

1. When you check your email, first delete all the unwanted mail. This sounds simple but it really is the best first step. Think of your inbox as a landing pad, not a final stop.

2. Make sure you unsubscribe to recurring spam or to companies that are excessive in their contact. Do you really need to know about every single sale?

3. Commit to responding to anything that can be addressed in three minutes or less. The goal is to read these simple messages just once before you can delete them or move them to a folder. The only messages that should be in your inbox are those that require in-depth follow-up that you will do within the next five days. Anything longer than that goes into a folder.

4. Use your email program’s flagging or highlighting options to mark things that are date sensitive. Use sparingly so they really stand out.

5. Have an organized folder system. You might consider folders organized by person or topic as well as ones for upcoming events or things that need more follow-up. I have close to 50 folders in my work account alone.

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6. If you frequent websites that require registration and send tons of email you may want to create an alternate email address just for those logins. I have an alternate email address I only use for getting deal codes or things related to online shopping for the kids. It keeps my real inbox much neater.

7. As an alternate for no. 5, you can also consider setting up your email options to automatically filter emails from certain senders into a folder. For example, I get multiple emails every single day from a certain clothing store. I set it up so these all go into a folder that I only check when I am buying something and want to check for a coupon code.


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8. Quit multi-tasking. Dedicate 15-30 minutes a day to just do email and you’ll get your inbox under control for the rest of the day.

9. If you already, hypothetically, have 8,000 emails in your inbox, you’ll need to dedicate some time to do a massive purge. First do a search for things like emails from mailing lists, stores, or blog notifications and delete those en masse. Then search by name and move those emails directly into a folder. Don’t try to respond to emails that are more than two weeks old at this point. Just clear the space and start over.

10. If you are running low on space in your account or there are emails you want to save forever, consider backing them up to a disk drive or the cloud. Pictures or videos can be saved and then deleted to make more space.

Once you’ve got your inbox in good shape, you might feel like you have a little more time in your day, time you could even use to go old school and write an actual letter (with paper and stamps and everything!). Maybe the person you write will send you one back and that is one less email you’ll have to file!

How do you manage your inbox?

Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.wordpress.com.

Image ©iStock.com/skynesher

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