10 Steps to Efficiently Manage Your Email Inbox

As a business leader, you would probably agree that communication is the key to the success of any project or task, meaning email organization should not be underestimated or overlooked. Optimizing your email’s utility and organization will not only make your life easier, but it will also make your organization much more efficient by saving time and money on more costly solutions. 

Learning to manage your email correctly can help ensure you are always on task and keep your chain of command communication efficient and streamlined. So, how can you take your inbox from an overwhelming cluttered mess to an organized inbox? 

10 Ways to Manage Your Email Inbox

1. Use your inbox as a to-do list (only keep active emails in there that need action - delete/archive the rest

One of the most significant ways to save time, improve efficiency and optimize your email is to use your inbox as a to-do list. As you review your emails, you may want to consider archiving or deleting emails that do not require action. Leaving emails that require action as unread will concentrate your inbox and leave only tasks that need to be completed. This will optimize your email and your day as you will tackle each task or email one by one to satisfy all of your duties and reach inbox zero.

2. Create a “waiting” folder for when you are waiting on a response

When we send an email, it is to receive a response, I.e., we are waiting on the other person. The sheer volume of work in many people’s lives means that sometimes things get ignored or forgotten. Most people try to remember that they emailed someone and expect a reply, but this adds to the heavy burden and stress we face daily as business leaders. Instead, you can optimize your email and create a waiting folder to keep track of the emails awaiting a response. When you send an email that requires action by the recipient, you can bcc yourself and move it to the waiting folder. This way, when you receive replies to important requests or emails, they are automatically moved to the waiting folder, making them easily accessible in an already busy inbox. 

3. Organize your inbox with sub-folders or labels

To optimize your email, consider using sub-folders or labels. Using subfolders and tags will allow you to find emails quickly. For example, you may choose to sort your emails by the recipient, allowing you to find correspondence from a select company or sender promptly. Additionally, you may choose to sort and label by project, allowing you to quickly focus on each task as you complete it throughout the day. 

Depending on your email server, you may also be able to set your email ‘rules’ to sort incoming mail into the subfolders that you have created, allowing you to optimize emails and improve your organizational efficiency. For example, you may choose to sort calendar invites into a scheduling folder to be sorted nightly and general correspondence into another folder that you check hourly to ensure you don’t miss any critical updates from your contacts. 

4. Adopt the 2-minute or less rapid response method - if it takes you less than 2 minutes to respond to something, do it right away and then archive the email

Adopting the 2-minute or less rule means that all of the small emails that come during a day are addressed on the spot, keeping your inbox free of clutter and minor emails. Using this methodology has a wide range of advantages. For example, it clears out your inbox leaving the remainder more manageable and in focus, provides an immediate sense of accomplishment and keeps you focused on the project of the day as you will not be interrupted for more than the 2 minutes it takes to respond. 

5. Use multiple email addresses to filter out spam, newsletters, etc. - have a dedicated inbox for non-urgent email

Using multiple email addresses can be a great way to reach your goal of inbox zero. By using various email addresses and assigning each a role, you can ensure that clutter stays sorted. For example, using one email for newsletters, another for spam or product offers, and another for day-to-day business allows you to find each quickly. Optimizing your email in this way will keep your urgent mail at the forefront of your inbox, and any non-urgent email sorted away for your review at a later date.

6. Create templates or canned responses - do not reinvent the wheel every time, write once and use multiple times

How many times do you find yourself replying in the same way to the same type of email? The answer is most likely: a lot. You can stop wasting time by creating canned responses or templates to reduce response time and optimize your email. Using canned responses to reply to remedial emails allows you to quickly customize a thoughtful response and reduce the number of unread emails in your inbox– inching you closer to your goal of inbox zero!

7. Leverage sort and filtering functions to do mass clean-ups

There is no greater feeling than seeing a messy and cluttered inbox become inbox zero. But how can you quickly clean up your inbox? It’s as simple as using sorting and filtering functions to their full capabilities. For example, you can use your mass sort functions to select and archive a spam sender or delete a newsletter you have no intention of reviewing. Using the filtering function will also allow you to quickly sort and move emails into subfolders for ease of reference later on. Why waste time dealing with each email individually when these great tools are built into your email server for your benefit? 

8. Turn off email notifications and set an email checking schedule - maintain some sanity with fewer checks

If you find yourself overwhelmed by constantly checking your inbox for emails, you can take back control and maintain some sanity by reducing how frequently you check your inbox. Turning off notifications will allow you to focus on your work without the interruption of constant emails. If you then set aside designated times for checking your email, you can efficiently review your emails on a schedule without interruption. This will allow you not to feel bogged down or overwhelmed by your email and maintain some routine in your day-to-day operations. 

9. Set a limit to the amount of time you spend in your inbox and then move back into productive work time

Do not let email run your life! As a business leader, you likely recognize that if you spent your whole day sorting through your inbox, you would get nothing done, and your business would suffer as a result. To combat this issue, you can set aside a limited amount of time to spend in your inbox before returning to more productive work. Treating your ‘email budget’ like a financial budget will ensure you make the best use of the limited resource that is your time. 

Limiting the time you spend on email will force you to utilize the other tips in this list to prioritize your time to emails that matter to get back to productive work and ensure that email does not crowd your day. For example, you may realize that you can only review 20 emails in this time and learn to filter your emails by importance to fit into this time frame. 

10. Unsubscribe from everything and anything you do not read 

We all hand out our email for promotional offers and newsletters with the best intentions to read and follow them. But the reality is we often do not read much of the stuff sent to us. These emails only serve to clutter your inbox and make it harder to see the emails that matter, and that’s why it’s essential to unsubscribe from everything and anything you do not read. This will not only reduce the clutter in your inbox, but it will also help you reach and maintain inbox zero as you will not have to read or mark emails as read that you have little to no interest in ever reading. 

Declutter Your Inbox and Free Up Your Time 

Why should you follow these ten tips? Following these ten tips will allow you to keep your inbox clutter-free and focused, optimize your time management, and ensure you’re not wasting endless hours sorting unnecessary emails. Optimizing your email using these timely tips will improve your response time, limit missed follow-ups, improve efficiency, and reduce time and financial cost wasted on reviewing a cluttered inbox. 

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