Do you feel like you’re constantly playing catch-up with your email? If you have an out-of-control inbox (and even if you don’t), it seems like no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get ahead. This can be extremely frustrating and time-consuming. It’s a huge distraction!

Below are 5 tips for getting your email under control. Implementing these strategies will help you manage your inbox more efficiently and reduce the amount of stress that comes with it.

Out of Control Inbox Tip #01: Create an Email Filing System

One of the best ways to get your email under control is to create a filing system for your messages. This will help you keep track of what’s important and what can be archived or deleted. For example, you might create separate folders for:

  • Work emails
  • Newsletters
  • Training emails
  • School notices
  • Personal emails
  • Financial emails
  • Other important messages
  • Archive

When you create an email filing system, it’s important to be as specific as possible. The more specific the folders are, the easier it will be to find what you’re looking for. When you receive a new email, decide which folder it should be filed in. This will help you keep your inbox organized and make it easier to find messages when you need them.

Out of Control Inbox Tip #02: Use Labels

Labels or tags, depending on your email software, are a great way to organize your email and make it easier to find what you’re looking for. For example, you might create labels for:

  • Urgent
  • Important
  • Read later

Out of Control Inbox Tip #03: Use a Filter (or Incoming Message Rules)

If you receive a lot of emails that are all related to one topic, it’s helpful to create a filter or incoming message rules for them. Again, it depends on your email client’s terminology. This will help keep your inbox organized and make it easier to find the information you need. For example, if you’ve subscribed to several email newsletters, you might create a filter for “newsletters.” This is similar to having folders except the messages are automatically filed in a specific place.

Out of Control Inbox Tip #04: Deal with Emails Promptly

One of the best ways to keep your email under control is to deal with them promptly (but during your regularly scheduled check-in times). Some won’t require a response, so read them and file them away. Others will require some sort of action, such as a reply or performing a task. Reply to those that require a response and schedule or delegate the task. If a task will only take a few minutes, do it now and be done with it.

Out of Control Inbox Tip #05: Use a Task Manager

If you find that you’re leaving your messages in your inbox so you won’t forget to deal with them, you might want to consider using a task manager. This will help keep your email under control and allow you to focus on the tasks at hand. There are several different types of task managers available. Some good ones to try are Todoist, Things 3, Amazing Marvin, and TickTick, but there are dozens of other amazing ones on the market. Many integrate with email clients, making it easy to turn an email into a task.

A Word of Caution About Inbox Zero

Note, so-called “Inbox Zero” is a worthy goal, but it’s not always realistic. Be careful not to become obsessed with it and spend more time trying to achieve this than necessary. If you feel the need to constantly check your inbox so that you can get it back to inbox zero, you may be overdoing it. Schedule your email check-ins for specific times of the day (2 to 3 check-ins per day works well for most people).

If you’re having trouble with an out-of-control inbox, try implementing some or all of these tips. They will help you stay organized and focused, making it easier to manage your inbox.

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