We’ve all seen it – the red icon over our email app that lists the frighteningly large numbers of messages sitting in our inbox. While it may seem impossible, we’re here to tell you what you need to do to tackle and organize your inbox.
Six Steps to Organize Your Inbox
Step 1: Schedule Time to Check Emails
We mentioned this first step in our Five Steps to Maximize Productivity blog. Scheduling time to check your emails is one of the best ways to take control of your inbox. Throughout our day, we are constantly monitoring our emails which can push organizing important emails and deleting useless emails to the wayside. We recommend adding a one- or two-hour window (depending on your email load), twice a day to your calendar that is solely dedicated to answering, organizing and deleting emails. During the remaining hours of your day, you will complete other important tasks.
Step 2: Use the FAST System
Rhett Power at INC.com recommended our second step in his article for Inc.com. During your ‘check email’ time, use the FAST system to get through your inbox quickly and efficiently.
Step 3: Create a Filing System
Having a filing system that works for YOU is key to an organized inbox. In a 2017 article on FastCompany.com, author Zach Hanlon lists the five folders he created to save his sanity when it came to emails: Inbox, Today, This Week, This Month/Quarter and FYI. For many of us, we will need several more folders to get our information organized, these five folders are a great starting point. While the options are endless, we do recommend trying to keep the number of folders as low as possible. Whether the number is five or fifty, finding a filing system that works for you is a workplace lifesaver.
Step 4: Click Unsubscribe
This may be the hardest step of all because it requires you to be a little ruthless. But, the Unsubscribe Button is your best friend when it comes to taking control of your inbox. Over time, you’ll notice your inbox becoming inundated with sales on programs, tickets for expensive webinars, ‘helpful newsletters’ and more that you never actually read nor use. Figure out which newsletters and other subscriber-based emails that you’re using, and unsubscribe from the rest. This will instantly declutter your inbox and will have you pressing ‘delete’ less often.
Step 5: Empty Your Trash
Emptying your trash is a BIG step which is why you should consider it carefully. Before clicking ‘empty trash,’ take a deep dive into your trash folder and make sure that there’s nothing in it that could be considered remotely important because you will never see it again. After assessing the folder, be sure to check with your employer on their email retention preferences as some industries and larger companies prefer you to keep your emails for X amount of years. This step is primarily to give your inbox more useful storage space.
Step 6: Use Your Work Email for Work Only
Lastly, do not use your work email for personal purposes. All of us are guilty of providing our emails for random giveaways, retail stores, etc. If these all go to your work email, you’re likely to have thousands, if not more, of emails to go through every morning. Use your personal email for fun, family and friends. Then, keep your work email for work. Simple as that!
We are teeming with tips and tricks at CJ Hester. Visit our blog each week for more information on how to become more productive both professionally and personally.