6 Tips For Organizing Your Email Inbox


If the phrase “getting organized” gives you hives, you’re not alone. But I have some tips here for you of ways that I have learned to climb on top of things that need organized, based on my more than twelve years of experience as a Project Manager. First we’ll tackle:

Your Email Inbox

Aside from the obvious, which is that if you already have an inbox of thousands or tens of thousands of emails, you’ll need some more in-depth help than I can give in this blog post, there are several ways to cut down on the number of emails you get, what happens with them when they come in and what you can do with them whether you’ve read them or not. Here are the things I do to keep myself at the golden “Inbox Zero” state.

  • Don’t obsessively check your emails constantly all day long. This sounds counterintuitive since the goal is to keep on top of incoming email! But the truth is that if you allot yourself only short segments of time in which to check your emails, you will naturally be more efficient reviewing them and deciding what to do with each one, than if you’re randomly checking them repeatedly throughout your day.
  • Unsubscribe from any email lists that you don’t actually read the emails for. It sounds kind of silly, but you wouldn’t believe how many of us subscribe to an email list and then never actually read the emails that come in as a result (or stop reading them after one or two). We change what we’re focusing on, or we get busy, or our interests go other directions than we anticipated when we signed up. And the truth is that we just don’t have the bandwidth to read every single email that every single person with an email list sends out. It is what it is. So if you’re not reading it, I mean if you’re not actively and happily anticipating its arrival in your Inbox, then unsubscribe from that person’s or company’s list.
  • Create folders for things you know you want to keep, and then put the incoming emails into their proper folders as soon as you’ve read, responded or acted. For example, in my personal email I have folders for every segment of my life including multiple parts of my business, other work I do, groups I’m involved with, the plethora of things having to do with my pets and my daughter, my “non-professional” interests, receipts (separated by the company…so for example, a folder for Petco’s emails that I want or need to keep), even individual friends from whom I get emails that I like to keep. If your best friend Sasha always sends you awesome emails that you can’t bear to part with, move them to your shiny new Sasha folder. If you love the emails you get from Louise Hay’s website and want to be able to reference them later, then make a Louise Hay folder. And so on, you get the idea.
  • Make email rules so emails will automatically go into their folders. There are so many different types of emails that I couldn’t possibly address them all, but I’m going to guess that the majority of the popular ones (Outlook, Gmail) offer you the ability to set “rules.” So for example, you could tell it to send all emails from senders containing the word Sasha into your Sasha folder right off the bat. That way Sasha’s emails don’t go into your inbox, they go directly into her folder and you can then read them at your leisure without them cluttering your inbox.
  • Mass deletions. I understand Gmail has changed how they do this, so it’ll be up to you to do the legwork on that or whatever other email program you use, to determine how you can mass delete emails if you are already in a situation where you have thousands to try to get rid of. Early in 2016 I successfully used mass deletion in a Gmail account to get rid of things I’d saved that I realized I didn’t have any reason to keep. It’s helpful if you can figure it out. Worst case scenario: you do a search in your email for something you know you don’t want anymore (e.g. emails from RedBluePurpleGuy) and then just select all and delete page by page. Time consuming? Yes. But do you want to clean out your emails or not? Devoting a bit of time now eases burdens, stress and headache in the days and weeks to come.
  • Leave only things that need to be done in your Inbox. My ‘To Do’ list for work has almost always been nothing but my email inbox. If someone tasks me with something that’s not in my inbox I will nearly always send myself an email so it gets in there. I literally have turned my email inboxes (personal and work ones both) into To Do lists. When I finish something, I move the email or delete it and voila, it’s out of my inbox and I have peace of mind knowing the task is complete.

Remember: you’re the one who allowed your email to get out of control. So if you want to keep that email rather than the easy way out, which is to cancel that account, then you have to take the time to dig yourself out of the mess that’s accumulated. We are always responsible for our own problems, and our out-of-control email inboxes are no exception. It’s not the fault of the multiple lists you subscribed to, that’re sending you daily emails…it’s your fault for signing up to all of them to begin with. Be the Master of your own Email Fate and git ‘er done!

What other tips and tricks do you have to share with everyone? Any methods for cleaning up our email inboxes will never be ignored, I can guarantee that! Share your ideas in the comments below!

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