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5 methods for regaining control of your inbox

Posted by Shivali Anand

February 2, 2022    |     4-minute read (660 words)

Starting your workday with an out-of-control email can bring a rush of anxiety. Dealing with an onslaught of emails — which entails creating the ideal reply, sorting through rubbish and keeping tabs on messages that require a follow-up – seems like an efficient approach, albeit a time-consuming one. But despite your best efforts, you end up not getting to your other daily to-do’s.

There's an alternative, though. Email was originally designed to make communicating with your staff and clients easier. It was not meant to be a tool that made people lose sight of their daily to-do list. The good news is that getting an orderly inbox is simpler than you think; all it takes is knowledge and application.

Here are five smart tactics to help you reclaim control of your rogue inbox:

  1. Clear your inbox
Messages in your inbox can be prioritized, grouped, sorted and filed. The better your email filing system, the easier it will be to identify emails requiring your attention and locate specific ones when you need them.

Use labels and folders to arrange email. Define parent labels for broad categories, like clients and project reports, and then use sub-labels for messages relevant to specific customers or projects. Just be sure that the tag used to identify the message adequately represents the content of the email and is search-friendly.

Many email clients, including Outlook, will also allow you to create inbox rules or filters to take proactive actions. For example, they can automatically sort a received inbox message into a suitable folder or archive the message based on your chosen filter. Aside from labeling, you can use filters to execute various operations with your messages, such as deleting them, moving them immediately to a specified folder, or color-coding or prioritizing the email based on the sender.

For irrelevant emails, you could create a filter directing them to a designated folder for later review. This allows you to filter out "noise" and reduces email clutter.

  1. Block to tackle
Instead of leaving your email open all day, schedule periods during your workday to sift through messages and act on them in the following ways: reply, forward, delete, archive or store for later. This will allow you to process communications more quickly and prioritize work at hand.

Unless you work in customer service, three half-hour chunks every day will be enough to keep your daily emails organized and on top of your inbox. Set aside an extra 30 minutes once a week for an email revamp to ensure your system is working for you.

Since you've already set aside time to check your messages, you might choose to disable email notifications.

  1. Make use of your calendar rather than your inbox
People frequently leave notes in their inboxes as reminders to make a call, send a report or follow up with a customer. Keeping emails you've already seen, on the other hand, might wreak havoc in your inbox.

Make a note of these tasks in your calendar instead. Making a calendar event not only helps you remember it, but it also makes it easy to amend the reminder later if the appointment or call is rescheduled, something you are likely to miss in your overburdened inbox.

  1. Default to canned replies
This can save a lot of time. If you routinely find yourself sending identical responses, save time by creating easy-to-edit drop-in templates. Using a plug-in application, save these templates and answers in your drafts folder or within your email account.

When you need your prewritten response, simply put it into your email with a click, make any necessary changes and push send – and you're done.

  1. Unsubscribe from unwanted email
Promotional emails have a way of cluttering your inbox every day, potentially burying vital communications that require prompt attention. Rather than waste time removing these advertising and mailings daily, unsubscribe. To unsubscribe from a large number of unwanted marketing emails at once, use an inbox cleaning service such as Mailstrom or Swizzle.

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