Delete, delete, delete
If you know you won’t have to reference an email again, get rid of it! Especially if you forwarded a message because it’s not your responsibility anymore, you don’t need it taking up space in your inbox.
Archive if you’re unsure
If you’re the type who doesn’t like to fully let go, the archive button is your friend. Use it to clear irrelevant emails out of your inbox, while still keeping the option to reference them later if needed.
Raise a flag
The flag or star (depending on your email provider) feature is a simple way to mark emails that you need to come back to. Use it as a reminder to reply or a way to keep important emails quickly accessible. It’s a good half-way option if you don’t want to archive those emails.
Filter it out
You can set up filters so that emails automatically organize themselves into folders when they first arrive in your inbox, saving you time!
If you’re someone who relies on visuals for organization, colored labels can be a very helpful tool. Maybe red means you need to respond within 24 hours and green means you’re waiting for more information before you can reply – figure out a system that works for you!
If you find yourself constantly sending the same message in a variety of situations, having a go-to script saved as an email template can save you a lot of time. (If you’re a Gmail user, you can save up to 50 email templates in Settings!)
O.H.I.O. stands for Only Handle It Once. It’s a tricky method to master, but if you can get yourself in the habit of taking the required action every time you open an email instead of skimming it and having to come back to it later, you’ll spend less time in your inbox and more time on important tasks.
Put it on pause
Need a break? You can temporarily stop your inbox from receiving new emails to give you time to play catch-up. There are plenty of extensions and programs that help you do this, and some even allow you to whitelist contacts that you still want to receive mail from while your inbox is on pause.
Set a schedule
Many of us are glued to our inboxes throughout the day, but if you’re able to step away and dedicate specific times of day to tackling your unread emails, you may find that you’re more productive with your responses.
Imagine the satisfaction of looking at your inbox and not seeing anything that you still have to deal with. By mastering the delete, archive, and folder features you can clean out your entire inbox so you’re only left with items that need your immediate attention.
Inbox [insert number here]
If the goal of having zero emails left in your inbox every day is daunting, try aiming for a specific number. If you can get your inbox down to just 20 (or 30, or 40) unread emails by quitting time, you’re doing pretty well!
The important takeaway here is that these tips are intended to save you time. If you find that you’re spending more time organizing than actually replying to emails, then it may be time to reevaluate your inbox management system and try out some new tricks.