There are few things better than a clean, orderly inbox. It makes work so much easier when everything is in its place and you’re not buried under a mountain of unread mail.
But most people aren’t sure how to organize emails. The typical inbox may have 500+ unread messages — and yours may have many more than that. Seeing all that unread mail every time you open your inbox can be overwhelming.
But fear not. In this post, Amitree is serving up our best tips for conquering your inbox. Email organization is not impossible — even if your inbox has gotten a little unwieldy. All it takes to get started are a few smart email organization tips.
Email Organization and Why It’s So Difficult
Every email account starts out with good intentions. Surveys show most people hate having an untamed inbox, because email organization is key to maintaining productivity and peace of mind while you work.
But there are two big problems holding you back:
- Volume of emails
- Lack of process
We all receive a massive amount of email, averaging 126 emails at work per day, every day. And the worldwide volume of email keeps growing — up more than 3% every year!
How to handle all that mail is also a common problem. Most people “check” their email, which is little more than taking a look at it. We don’t generally think about applying a process to organize and work through new messages.
Overcoming both these email organization challenges really comes down to creating a good process that can deal with a high volume of messages. Here’s how to start.
1. Create a New Process to Organize Mail
Having a process is key to making sure your inbox doesn’t just continuously get out of control.
It’s important that you don’t just check your email (like you may do now) — you’ve got to have a process to work through your mail, sorting it and taking care of what needs to be taken care of.
A fixed process for working through your mail is going to be the best way to achieve a neat and tidy inbox.
2. Get into a Regular Routine
We’re often held hostage by the dings and buzzes that signal a new email has arrived. It distracts you from your current task and doesn’t lead to a cleaner inbox.
A regular email routine can be much more efficient. Turn off your notifications if you can and schedule two or three specific blocks of your day just for checking email.
You can focus on your most important tasks during your best hours and then work through email in batches.
3. Decide What to Do With Your Messages
When you work through your messages, you need to make some decisions about what to do with each email.
It’s best not to make this too complex and keep it to a few tried and tested options:
- Delete it. First up, delete the messages you know you don’t want and won’t ever need for any reason. It’s pretty easy to do and makes a nice dent in the pile.
- Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe from any mailing lists emails you aren’t going to open and read. If it doesn’t add any value or sends too many messages, just unsubscribe.
- Take action. Next, work through emails that require you to take action. Handle the task now if you can. If you can’t, add a task to your to-dos and archive the email.
- Archive it. Finally, move the messages that remain out of your inbox into one or more archives folders for safekeeping. That way, if you need it again, it will be there.
4. Reduce the Volume of New Mail Coming In
The first step of dealing with a case of email overload is to cut back on the volume of new mail filling your inbox.
As a business professional, you need a lot of those 126 emails flowing into your inbox every day. But honestly, you could probably do without a few of them.
Even just 5 fewer emails a day means 150 fewer per month — a lot of time saved by unsubscribing from a few mailing lists.
5. Make Unsubscribing a Regular Habit
Email subscriptions tend to pile up over time. After years of signing up for discount offers, free webinars and white paper downloads, you could be on dozens of mailing lists at work.
Unsubscribing from the ones you don’t need is a must, but it’s something you have to keep up with or you’ll find your inbox overflowing again soon enough.
6. Consolidate Where You Can
Some mailing lists allow you to directly manage your subscriptions. You may want to stay on the mailing list, but receive fewer total messages from them.
Subscription tools like unroll.me can also help, by letting you roll selected email subscriptions into a consolidated message that takes up less space in the inbox.
7. Deal With Your Old Unread Mail
Once you have stemmed the tide of new mail coming in, it’s time to deal with your old unread mail so you can have a clean start.
If it’s only a few hundred messages, just set aside a block of time and catch up. You can do this manually, or you can use a batching tool like Clean Email or Mailstrom to bundle like messages for mass-deletion or archiving.
If things are really out of hand, consider an email bankruptcy — archiving or deleting all your old messages at once. With this option, be sure to send a note to your most important contacts letting them know you’ve had some email issues and to contact you if they’re waiting on a response.
8. Use AI to Organize Your Inbox
Creating a new process to get organized and better manage your emails will transform the way you work for the better. But it can still be a lot of work if you’re doing it by hand.
Using a tool like Folio to manage your inbox can get you the same “inbox zero” results — while saving you hours every week.
Folio is an email add-on that helps more than 150,000 professionals keep their inbox organized and work more efficiently. Our AI-powered algorithms automatically sort your Gmail or Outlook inbox in a way that makes sense for how you work.
Start your free trial of Folio today and get your inbox organized even faster.
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We've built Folio: the first AI email assistant for professionals.
Folio plugs directly into your work email inbox and automatically organizes your email, giving you contextual access to all the information you need to increase your productivity in minutes.
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