When things are starting to get on top of me at work, my email inbox is the first thing I drop the ball on. There a few easy tricks I use to try and keep it in some sort of order that can also be applied to a personal inbox.
The aim is not for a zero inbox (for me that would mean nothing is happening!) but to maintain order and avoid overwhelm.
Use colour coding – Most mail services have a feature where you can tag emails with different colours. Google has stars, Outlook has labels. I use the same system in both my work and personal inboxes so it becomes second nature as to what the colours mean. The categories are fairly similar to what is in my Trello getting things done system. I use red for urgent items, or items not yet in my to-do list, blue for action items that are on my list, yellow for things I’m waiting to hear back from and green for items that are information for things like events or bits of reading that I want to do.
Archive reference emails – Particularly at work, I like to keep emails and only delete generic admin messages. If there is no action associated with it, I immediately file them into a archive folder, which is categorised by current projects, past projects, team references and personal references. I know where to find them if I need to get information, but to they don’t clog up my inbox.
Unsubscribe from content – I unsubscribe immediately from marketing emails (the link has to be on the email as part of anti-spam laws and is usually a single click), and seriously question the value of news and content before I sign up.
Set up dedicated time to read content – If there are subscriptions you find useful, you can set up a rule for certain emails to go to a ‘to read’ folder. Then you can dedicate one lunchtime per week to actually absorb the content. My rule was to delete anything here that was older than a month as if I hadn’t read it by then it was either not that important or/and the information was old.
Regularly clear out – Just like any cupboard in my house that can easily accumulate clutter, I schedule regular times to declutter my inboxes. For my personal mail it’s once a month, for my work email it’s once a week on a Friday afternoon.
Do you have any tips for keeping your inbox tidy? Let me know in the comments!