I never realized how many emails I would get when starting my career. As an intern I thought I received a lot of emails, but quickly realized that as an FTE you get wayyy more. Turns out, one of the main parts of my job is to email!
As my inbox started overflowing, I noticed that I needed a system ASAP. Missing important emails can only happen so many times before co-workers start giving you a hard time.
This may seem like a “duh” type of topic, but I came to realize that not only did I need to change the way my inbox was organized, so did some of my co-workers. I think it’s safe to say that everyone could use a little organization in their life, especially in their professional life.
So as I started receiving email after email, I created my own system for keeping things organized and doing my best to never miss a beat. Below are some tips on how to keep your inbox clean, along with the system that works best for me.
Creating folders in your inbox is crucial if you have multiple clients or projects that you work on. Keeping things separated as much as possible will help ease the burden when searching for something in your inbox, as well as keeping all the details for each client or project in one place.
What works for me: I organize my inbox by creating folders for each client I am in constant communication with. I even have folders for internal items that are important to remember. Once I’ve created a folder for the client, I create subfolders for that client based on projects or recurring projects like reporting or annual conferences.
Another part to this step is making sure emails go into the right folder. Outlook allows you to set rules so that if an email comes into your inbox it will go in the folder you want it to go in. I only set rules or emails that I know I will never need to see right when they hit my inbox, like Google alerts or newsletters. The process I use here is letting it hit my inbox so that I know I see it in a timely manner, then placing it in the folder manually so it is filed away once it has been taken care of.
Flag important emails
Some people use the flagging feature in Outlook to mark important emails. Others use a different system. Whatever you do, just have a system for marking emails that need to be responded to immediately or should be referred to regularly.
What works for me: I actually don’t use the flagging feature in Outlook. I have two ways to go about flagging important emails.
Number one: If I’m getting tons of emails and I am in tons of meetings at the same time, I can’t respond as quickly as I would like to. In cases like this, I will open the email to see what it is about, determine if it’s important and mark it as unread. I’m the type of person who some call a “zero-inboxer”, which means I hate having unread emails. So this tactic forces me to check everything before I leave for the day.
Number two: Let’s say I’m not able to respond to a few emails until the afternoon, or I need to defer to my manager before responding to something sensitive. In either of these cases, I will just open the email and minimize it to the bottom right corner of my screen. I have a rule to where I can’t leave or close my computer until those emails have been answered. Sometimes I don’t minimize it so that I see it when I go back to my desk from a meeting and it forces me to take another look.
It may seem like what I do would create too much work and using the flagging feature is a better option. That’s okay! Do whatever it takes for you to respond and move on.
Schedule emails for a later date
This comes in handy when you are working late but don’t want your clients to know you are. If you feel that you have to work at night and need to make sure important emails are sent, don’t send it that night unless you have to. Outlook has a feature for you to schedule emails to go out whenever you want!
Another time this works well is if you are knocking out your long to-do list and crushing it. If you don’t want to blow up the other person’s inbox with 10 emails at once, just schedule them to go out at different times.
Don’t let your inbox own you! Stay organized and never miss an email. Do you have tips for organizing your inbox? Comment below.