As I sat here overwhelmed by my overflowing inbox (as I’m sure yours is as well) thinking there’s no way I could ever catch up on all of my e-mails, I knew there had to be a better way! So, after some research and conversations with my coworkers, I came up with 6 great tools and tips for keeping your inbox clean, organized, and current!

I often get caught up reading through my messages in the order they arrive, but this can be pretty inefficient. When you take this approach, critical messages can go unnoticed and then you end up kicking yourself for spending so much time on low-priority items. Instead, try categorizing your e-mails by project. Categories can be a great way to visualize the priority level for each item. Red = critical, orange = high, yellow = medium, and green = low. Simple!

Prioritize Contacts

  1. On your iPhone, you have the ability to label certain contacts as “Favorites.” Any e-mail from a “Favorite” contact will go directly to your lock and home screen. This way, you will always stay on top of important e-mails from important people (such as your manager)!
  2. In Outlook, you can set up alerts to notify you when you receive an e-mail from specified contacts. Alternatively, you can use the Organize tool to color code any messages from a specific contact. This makes it really easy to take a quick glance at your inbox and see which e-mails are from certain important contacts.

This simple view offers a bite-size view of the mile long e-mail to come. Usually, a quick skim of an e-mail can tell you if there is any immediate action required. Auto-preview is my favorite way to skim through my e-mails early in the morning before the double shot café Americano kicks in.

Personal folders
Personal folders are another great way to organize e-mails by project. I personally reference old e-mails regularly, and, as the IT department keeps reminding me, “an inbox is not a file management program”. So, personal folders it is! When moving e-mails to personal folders, your e-mail moves from the server to your own computer. What a great way to save important information while also keeping IT happy!

Flags are helpful when organizing a to-do list. Outlook allows you to flag e-mails to indicate high-priority requests. The built-in  to-do list tool lists your tasks and the view can be altered in many different ways. There are a number of different flags with various follow up dates, but I like to keep it simple with just these two flags:

  1. “Today” – These are items that need a response before the end of the day.
  2. “No Date” – These are items that need a follow-up with no specified date.

Delete it
Raise your hand if you still have e-mails from 2010! *raises hand* It’s like cleaning out your closet. You talk yourself into thinking you might wear those vertical striped flare pants one day, but we all hope you won’t. Toss those old e-mails (and those pants).

Easy, right?! These tools are simple to use and can be implemented into your routine today! So, how do we keep up when there is no good time to check e-mail? That is another blog post for another day. Happy organizing!

What is your favorite e-mail organization tip?