Top 10: Email inbox management techniques

By Matt Cornock

Here’s some Top 10 Tips to manage your email inbox:

  1. Folders (or labels if you’re Googlemail). Folders are great, they compartmentise your email. Unless you only ever deal with one specific subject, or one project, then you’ll probably need folders. Imagine having a single stack of paperwork with every piece of paper you have ever touched… that’s crazy. That’s what an inbox without folders is.
  2. Filters. Automatic foldering, replying, deleting saves a heck of a lot of time and helps auto-prioritising your inbox.
  3. Separate email addresses for home, work (and any other projects). I have work email, home email, website email and web projects emails. That means you only deal with work when you’re at work and not when you’re at home.
  4. Stop the ping. Turn off the notification you have new mail, particularly when you are in the middle of some work that requires concentration. If you don’t, your main work slows down and it’s likely the email gets left to deal with later, clogging the inbox perpetually.
  5. Inbox is an inbox. Imagine your inbox to be your letterbox, you don’t let things sit stuffing the letterbox, so don’t leave things collecting in the inbox. Answer emails, do something with them or keep them unread.
  6. Flags and whistles. Use flags and add ‘whistle’ reminders to complete an email by a set time.
  7. Real name contacts. Most modern email programmes allow you to type in the name of the person, rather than typing in the email address. Make sure you have an up to date contacts list to allow this to happen. It saves lots of time when you don’t have to remember the intricacies of email addresses (particularly if your work uses some random number assignments).
  8. Movable mail. Make sure you know how to access your email from a variety of locations. Most workplaces allow for pop or imap email access. This means if your workplace becomes Swine Flued, you can still get to your work email from home.
  9. Easiest first. If you have a backlog, deal with the easy, friendly emails first. Then deal with the monsters. (Same with people).
  10. Email day. Sometimes, for peace of mind you may decide to have either: email tidy day and email ignore day. Email tidy day is when you spend a long while completely emptying your inbox. It’s really quite pleasant. Email ignore day is when you just don’t look at your inbox, stick on a divert or auto-responder with something like ‘here’s my phone number…’. Again, this can be quite pleasant.

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