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How to Manage Your Overflowing Inbox

Dear Classy Career Girl,

I get so many emails in my personal and professional life and I always feel like my inbox is overflowing.  I know you probably have a lot of emails with all of the work you do. How do you manage your inbox?”

Sincerely,

Help my inbox!

I don’t think anyone is perfect at managing their inbox and I am definitely guilty of letting it get out of control. But, I do have a system and all emails will be replied to.  It might not be today, but eventually. Here is the system I use to manage my inbox:

Prioritize

Every morning I get into the office I prioritize the most important emails and I flag the emails that absolutely MUST get done that day. You don’t want to be answering any emails that can wait until later. If I don’t need to answer an email today, I might push it to a couple of days from now. That way, I’m only focusing on things that need to get done today like write this blog post!
Trust me, I have a TON of emails sitting in my inbox right now. If you finish the emails that must get done that day, you can start going to the next day’s emails. On the right side of outlook is a little box that tells you what needs to be done today, tomorrow and next week. (I don’t use Gmail but I believe there is something similar).

Monitor, Don’t Respond 

If you can, I highly recommend just checking email only a few times a day. I work in a client environment where I don’t have the ability to turn off email throughout the day. I have clients who will walk down to my desk right after they send me an email to say “Did you get my email? What do you think?”
Because of this, I have to always be monitoring my email. Notice that I don’t say I answer emails though. I only monitor the urgency of emails. If it can wait until later in the week, I don’t answer the email that day. But if it is urgent, I will add it to today’s tasks.  My biggest pet peeve is when someone uses the urgent red flag for emails that are not urgent.

Sort 

Don’t keep emails sitting in your inbox if you have already completed an action.  My favorite thing to do each day is to check off an action I have completed. Even if I had no action, I still love that red check mark. Makes me feel like I accomplished something even if it was just an informational email!:) If something is unresolved and you have emailed someone else to take an action, take it out of your inbox and put it into a separate folder.
I send out too many emails for me to track other people’s responses and tasks.  If you do your part, take it off your to-do list. If you need to, create a folder that says “Check in next month” and lump those emails that have a task for someone else to do in there. Then, every month you can check the folder.

Delete

Set a timer and get as many emails out of your inbox as quickly as possible. Either sort or delete.  The feeling of an inbox with only 5-10 emails before you leave for the night is HEAVEN! Before you leave work each night when your brain is exhausted and you can’t focus anymore, clear out your inbox. Put everything that is just informational and doesn’t involve a task you need to complete in a separate folder.
My goal is to just have one page that I don’t have to scroll down by the end of each day. That way when you come in the next morning your inbox will be organized and you won’t be so stressed with the millions of things to do and an overflowing inbox. Your inbox can seriously stress you out even though most of the emails are just informational and nothing that you actually have to do yourself. I keep my inbox like a to-do list, too. So, I email myself to call the dentist or to run an errand. This helps me keep everything in one spot.

Batch

Batching is when you complete similar tasks at one time. So although I monitor my inbox for urgent emails throughout the day, I only answer emails for about one hour each day. That way I am focused and I get it done a lot faster.  I try to batch other items like writing and social media as well so I can get more done with my time.

Unsubscribe

Every second you waste scanning and deleting an email that you don’t want in your inbox in the first place is a complete waste of time. Go through your deleted files and start unsubscribing from newsletters and emails that you didn’t want and deleted. I spend 15 minutes every few months unsubscribing to a lot of emails at once. When you do this, your inbox will not grow as fast and you won’t wake up to a ton of emails you didn’t want in the first place.

What are your email management tips? How do you manage your overflowing inbox?

Hi, I'm Anna!

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