3 Ways to Tame Your Inbox(es)

Do you have a love-hate relationship with your email? If so, you’re certainly not alone! While email can be an advantageous way to communicate with others, it can also overwhelm your life. Staying on top of an already full inbox can feel like climbing out of a deep hole. But when that hole gets deeper and deeper each day, you may start to feel like you can’t handle it anymore. 

Fortunately, there are ways to stay on top of your emails while also spending less time reading and responding to them. Because while some emails will require a bit of time to reply to, the majority shouldn’t be bogging down your day. To help you stay in control and tame your inbox, check out these three tactful tips. 

1. Stay Organized

While you can’t always control who will be sending you messages, you can control how you view them. An organized inbox will provide structure to your day, allowing you to be more productive and complete tasks more efficiently. Instead of searching and trying to pinpoint the email you need, you’ll know exactly where to go to locate it. 

Staying organized starts with a bit of housecleaning. Go through all of your current emails and sort them using labels and folders. Perhaps you have a folder per project or a folder for each of your direct reports. You can also star or flag important emails and drop them into a folder for those that need your attention ASAP. Applying filters for incoming emails may also be useful, especially if you are subscribed to different newsletters. 

Another option to staying organized is to utilize a communication management tool. These tools manage conversations for you, organizing them into one streamlined inbox. If you’re dealing with multiple clients or customers at a time, this may be the best solution for you. Having a centralized inbox with every customer thread means that you can respond to inquiries faster. It also provides for a better customer experience as you’re able to keep track of all their requests. 

2. Create Go-To Templates

Many of your responses may contain the same type of information. Having stock responses ready to go in your drafts folder can save you time since you won’t need to be writing identical notes each time. It’s also a way to ensure you’re consistent in your answers and remain as accurate as possible. Most of the major email platforms, including Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, allow for template creation as does the aforementioned content management tools. 

If you’re using Gmail, you’ll first need to enable the template by clicking on “Settings” and then “Advanced.” Under the “Templates” section, select “Enable” and then “Save Changes.” To create a template, open up a new email and compose your message. Click “More” and then “Templates” followed by “Save Draft as Template” and “Save as New Template.” 

If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, go to the “Home” menu and click “New Email.” Write the email in the message body and then click “File” then “Save As” then “Outlook Template.” Choose a name for the template and hit “Save.” As a side note, communication management tools can typically assist in creating these types of templates as well. 

3. Turn off Email Notifications

You’re heads down, working against a deadline and notice a stream of new emails come in. One catches your eye and before you know it, you’ve switched your focus from the project to your inbox. What appears to be a few minutes turns into half an hour wasted on replying to other people. Getting distracted is nothing new, but it can take an average of 23 minutes to get back to the task at hand. 

Turning off email notifications is an easy way to resist the temptation of checking your inbox and digging out of it numerous times per day. In addition to helping you stay on task, it can also lessen your stress. Again, turning off notifications is fairly simple in both Gmail and Microsoft Outlook. 

In Gmail, go to “See All Settings” and scroll to “Desktop Notifications.” Click on “Mail Notifications Off,” and click “Save Changes.” You can enable notifications to remain on for anything you’ve marked as important. This ensures you’ll be pinged for anything particularly noteworthy or critical. 

In Microsoft Outlook, go to “File” then “Options” then “Mail.” Under “Message Arrival,” make sure the “Display a Desktop Alert” checkbox is unselected. Hit “Ok” to save your changes. 

Takeaways and Other Tips

Taming your inbox starts with learning how your email platform of choice works and what you can control. Play around with labels and filters, unsubscribe from messages that you no longer need, and set aside time for spring cleaning every quarter. You may want to consider time blocking — a time management technique that schedules out your day into bite-sized chunks. With this method, you can decide when is the best time for you to go through your inbox and when you want to schedule meetings or work on individual assignments. 

Taming your inbox may not happen overnight. Yet, the more you work toward effectively organizing and managing the platform, the sooner you’ll start feeling in control of it. Setting aside time to rethink how you handle your inbound and outbound emails is time well spent. 

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