Take Control of Your Inbox

Do you ever lose track of important emails? Is your inbox cluttered with newsletters you no longer read or want to read but don’t have the time? Are you drowning in a sea of unread emails? If so, we’ve got some tips on how to organize your inbox….

There was a time when I would sit down in the morning to open my email and I would cringe, afraid to look at new messages piling into my Inbox already crammed full.

Overwhelmed? Oh, yes! A large percentage of the email we see on a daily basis is irrelevant, and the accumulation of it leads us down a slippery slope of distraction that hampers our productivity.
Keeping your inbox organized and clutter-free isn’t an impossible goal, however. I’ve created a system that helped me organize my email and I’ll share the best parts of it here with you today.
1. Create a filing system: This is great for organizing emails you receive on a regular basis that center around common subjects.
  • Create folders for businesses, people or subjects that you receive frequent emails about and file those emails to their proper place immediately.
  • Labels (Gmail) or Categories (Outlook) are also excellent ways of grouping emails concerning similar subjects together for easy searching and reference later on.
2. Get rid of clutter: Take a look at all the newsletters and commerce emails you receive – I bet there are quite a few.
  • Unwanted emails: If you are on lists that you did not sign up for, these are the first to go. Use the “Manage Subscription” or “Unsubscribe” links usually located at the end of the message.
  • Next, look at the ones that you’ve been a long-time subscriber to. Are they still all pertinent to your life and do you still read them? If you haven’t opened them for a month or two, then they aren’t worth keeping. Remove yourself from these as well.
3. Don’t be afraid to delete: Read your e-mail as time permits and then delete any correspondence that doesn’t have content worth keeping for future reference. Then, empty your trash daily.
4. Prioritize, take action, then file or delete. Make use of the prioritizing system your email provides. This can be flags, tasks, or even using a free seconday system such as Nudgemail.com that will prioritize emails according to a date you designate and send them back to you at that requested time as reminders.
The above tips when practiced daily will make a world of difference in keeping your inbox organized and clutter free. Just a bit of discipline is all it takes to be on the road to less time spent dealing with e-mail and time for more important things.
This article originally appeared in the GO Community on October 12, 2011 as “Take Back Control of Your Inbox,” edited by Paige Willey.