Productivity: Top Tips for Tidy Inbox

Darren
Productivity: Top Tips for Tidy Inbox

Email has revolutionised the world of business, and we would all be lost without such a useful and efficient means of communication. However, the daily influx of emails can be overwhelming, with important emails lost in the inbox, notifications of incoming mail offering a constant distraction and the number of unread messages stacking up day by day.

Inbox zero is a concept that many strive for, and although in practice it can be hard to maintain, having a structure to your inbox can help you keep a clear head space – clear inbox, clear mind!

Somewhere between inbox zero and hundreds (if not thousands!) of unread messages is probably a good place to aim for when it comes to managing your inbox. There are loads of ways to keep on top of it, and make sure your emails are working for you and for your business. Here are my eight top tips to achieving a tidy and manageable inbox.

inbox zero

#1 Unsubscribe Over time it is likely that you have signed up for newsletters, competitions, and giveaways, offers or discounts…. And it is likely that there are emails you receive regularly that you either delete without opening, or never open and leave sitting in the inbox. Tip number one is to unsubscribe from the newsletters, marketing, and offer emails that you are no longer interested in. You can do this as and when you receive the email, by scrolling to the bottom and clicking unsubscribe. It takes a minute of your time and will help you keep on top of your inbox going forward. If you want to see all the subscriptions, search “unsubscribe” in the search box. This will bring up all the emails you have signed up for and will allow you to spot any that you no longer require. You can unsubscribe and delete on mass!

#2 Email Filters and Rules Use email filters to save time and keep your inbox clear and organised. You can create a filter based on your own criteria, sender, subject, keywords.... Whatever helps and works for you!

I have a colour co-ordinated inbox with coloured labels applied automatically to most of the incoming emails I receive. There may be a better system for you, that will automatically sort the incoming mail so you only have to deal with the most important emails when you’re pushed for time. For example, you may subscribe to a weekly newsletter which you enjoy reading (so you don’t want to unsubscribe) but it is something that can wait until you have time set aside. By creating an automatic rule to send these newsletters to a specified folder, and bypass the inbox, you will reduce the number of emails appearing in your inbox and be able to find the newsletter as and when you’re ready.

#3 Create relevant folders Following on from rules, a neat and tidy inbox relies on the filing structure – you need folders! The number and structure will depend on the kind of emails you are receiving, and the way you like to work, but it is so important to have a clear and concise filing system in place. You should choose a simple structure and rely on the search function to find emails within a folder. One option would be, "Important/Priority", “Awaiting Reply”, “Action Required”, "Archive/For Later" and "Completed" folders, which would allow every email to be filed into a relevant folder and help you to achieve inbox zero. Or a more customised structure based on your business might work better. The choice will depend on how you work and the type of emails you receive however, remember that less is more. When it comes to finding an email, fewer folders make the task much easier, and a broad filing system is more likely to be adhered to than a complicated structure with dozens of folders.

#4 Taking Action Once you have folders and rules set up to file your emails, the key to keeping your inbox tidy and manageable is to take immediate action. Once you have read an email you have a choice of what to do, leaving it sitting in the inbox is not one of them! 1 - Respond to the email and then file into the relevant folder. 2 - Delete the email if it is not required or not of interest (or unsubscribe first!) 3 – Make an action or add a task to your to-do list and then file the email or 4 - Forward the email on if necessary and delete or file. Reading an email once and carrying out one of these options will mean your inbox will be clear and you will make your email work more efficiently for you.

#5 Archive If you need to clean up an existing inbox that has previously had little or no structure, a simple exercise is to group together all the emails in the inbox from one year and move them into a dated Archive folder (Archive_2018, Archive_2019…). These will need to be sorted into your folder structure over time, or deleted, but can be done by dedicating just 15 minutes a day to the task. Get smart with your search terms, to move emails on mass. Search your Archived folders for a company name eg: “Groupon” and then move or delete the results of the search. The same can be carried out by searching for a specific word in an email signature, a sender’s email address, a keyword…. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can file away these emails into your newly organised inbox.

#6 Unread Emails An easy way to reduce the number of emails in your inbox is to filter for Unread messages, scroll to the bottom and start dealing with the oldest ones first. If you have neglected to open and respond to a message from years ago, there is no point holding on to it now. Delete! Ditch the email guilt and be ruthless! If there is an email that needed a reply but the deadline has been missed, the meeting passed, or the message is no longer relevant, there is little point keeping it. Going forward, with a new approach to your incoming mail, no email should be left unread.

#7 App Notifications If you receive notifications from Apps such as LinkedIn, or Twitter, turn off the email notifications, and use the in-built notifications in the app to alert you to any activity. If it is important to you, you will already be checking the apps and the email notification is unnecessary and will likely go unread in your inbox. Once you have stopped these notifications from appearing in your inbox a quick search will allow you to find and delete all the notifications cluttering up your inbox.

#8 Make Use of Apps Now you have a clear and organised inbox, there are apps available to help you keep it that way. Depending on your email service, there are apps that will postpone incoming emails, so you only receive email at set times each day, apps to group incoming emails so fewer emails reach your inbox, and even apps that will group all your subscriptions together and help you unsubscribe from anything you no longer require.

So whether you are in pursuit of inbox zero, or just need to get on top of the emails and organise your inbox, implementing these simple tips will help you ditch the email overwhelm, de-clutter and maintain a clear inbox going forward. These tips were brought to you by the lovely Claire from YourVirtualSolution.co.uk, a client of Stablepoint. Claire helps individuals and businesses by improving their processes and by outsourcing repetitive admin tasks.