Tips to Organize Your Email Inbox

By Youa | January 2014

Emails Photo

When one of my friends showed me her email inbox overflowing with a thousand unread emails, I cringed. To some people, the thought of sifting through mail or replying to people that need a quick answer is a monumental task that can put them into immobile shock. 

So what can you do if you have too many emails in your inbox? Here are some tips to organization and ensuring that you are not drowning in replies rather than getting actual work done.

1. Schedule Time - Just as you would devote a chunk of your time to clean your bathroom, schedule and devote time each day to answer emails. Responding to people can hamper productivity, but if you can set aside an hour each day to figure out who needs a response, you are not always having to look at a full inbox and feeling overwhelmed. If you glance at e-mails on your phone, mark those you need to follow up on as unread so that you don’t forget to respond later.

2. Folders - Folders are your best friend when it comes to organization. Gmail has started the process recently by routing items to your inbox, social, and promotion for you, but you can take it one step further and reading and either delete or put it into a specifically marked folder for future reference.

3. Organize Before You Read - At the beginning of your scheduled email session, learn to spot messages from the important people (the boss, your child’s teacher, friends), then scan subject lines and delete discernible junk.

4. Unsubscribe - Take your name off lists to newsletters and junk mail from retail outlets that you always "mean to open, but never get around to." If you aren't excited about what they have to say outright from the subject line, then it is most likely not important.

  • In Yahoo, you can create an alternate address that routes messages to your real inbox. If the spare address gets spammed, you can simply delete it. To enable this feature, go to the gear wheel in the right corner and click on Settings, then Security, then Disposable Address.

5. Block email addresses - Do you get solicitations from people and you have no idea how they got your email address?

  • In Gmail, you can divert these addresses to your trash by going into settings and changing the filter to: Skip Inbox, Delete it.
  • In Outlook, you can trash every message in your inbox from one sender. To enable this feature, open on of the sender’s emails, click on Sweep at the top of the screen, then hit Delete All From.

6. Respond Strategically - Respond quickly to emails that you can be done in two minutes or less. Most providers enable you to star/flag important emails, so use that option to note important emails. If you don't have the answer, send a quick note letting that person know you will get back to them -- the important part is making sure you actually get back to them. Sometimes an email can get dragged out into a long email chain, so that may mean picking up the phone instead.

7. Undo Send - Did you send out an email you didn't mean to or make a huge mistake by calling someone by the wrong name or use improper grammar? Gmail also has a feature that allows you to redact something within 30 seconds to get back that e-mail. To enable this feature, go to Settings, then Labs, then click Enable under Undo Send.

8. Shoot For 20 Items in Your Inbox - Twenty means that you can see your whole in-box without having to scroll. As soon as you are done with a message, file or delete it. Only messages from the past week that you’ve yet to respond to belong in your inbox. An inbox can also double as a to-do list, allowing you to check things off as you go along.

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