Tame Your Email Inbox

Configure your email client to automatically move messages that aren’t urgent such as sales receipts, automated action notices and discussion group messages to folders so they can be dealt with in the appropriate time-frame.

Tune your spam filters to make sure they are getting rid of as much spam as possible.

Each day, go through your inbox from top to bottom and for each message:

  1. If you can deal with the message in 3 minutes or less, open the message and deal with it.
  2. If it will take longer than 3 minutes to deal with the message, move it to a “pending” folder.
  3. If you need something or someone before you can completely deal with the message, move it to a “pending” folder.
  4. Once done with a message, delete or move it to an archive folder.

And what to do when it gets out of control…

Once again, your focus is to re-establish control over the size of your inbox so you can manage it going forward:

  1. Move all the messages from your inbox to a new folder.  I usually name it something like “reset” followed by the date so I instantly know when my inbox was cleared.
  2. Send an email to all of the senders of emails still in your inbox, if you can actually figure out who they are, to warn them that your inbox has overflowed and if they haven’t gotten a response by now, it’s not likely they will get one.
  3. Resume your daily regimen of going through your inbox from top to bottom and leaving it clean.
  4. If/when you have time, work on your “reset” folder like you do your inbox.  If a message still has value, move it to the “pending” folder or an archive folder. Otherwise, delete it.