Does your inbox contain thousands of email messages? Do you struggle to find older messages when you need them? How you organize and manage your emails directly impacts the amount of time spent on them. Here are some email management tips to help increase your productivity.

1 – Keep a Clean Inbox

Your inbox should be a place for new and/or unresolved email messages. As you read and address each message, file them away into another folder. Your goal should be to have an empty inbox. This not only helps psychologically, but it also makes it easy to identify what still needs to be done. Think of your inbox as a to-do list and moving the message as checking an item off your to-do list.

Keeping an inbox with thousands of messages makes it inherently more difficult to manage. There is no clear distinction between emails you’ve read and responded to versus ones that you haven’t. Sure, some emails are marked as “unread”, but what if you read a message but simply haven’t had a chance to respond. What if your read and unread messages are mixed in together. It creates clutter and takes more time to manage.

2 – Create Subfolders

The most common reasons we hear for not moving messages from inboxes are, “I’m not sure how to organize my subfolders” or “it would take me too long to clean out what’s already in there.” Let’s address both of these concerns.

Subfolder Organization

Don’t overthink how to organize your subfolders. It does not have to be overly formal or permanent. Remember, you can still run searches against all subfolders and find messages even if you misclassified them. The key is, think about what makes the most sense. Don’t create a subfolder for all senders,…you could end up with hundreds that way. Instead, think of how your business functions.

Here are some examples. If you’re a real estate agent, you might create a subfolder for every property transaction; emails could come from customers, co-brokers, lenders, and attorneys for each transaction. If you’re a service oriented business, you might create a folder for customers, service providers, subcontractors, and internal messages. If you sell products, your folders could be: suppliers, customers, internal, and subcontractors. Try to create few folders rather than more folders. Also, folders can have subfolders within them. For real estate agents, it might make sense to create a folder for each year and then subfolders for each transaction. Fewer folders is better than more folders, in general.

Too Many Inbox Emails

If you already have too many emails and your inbox and no time to sort through it all, the solution is simple. Create a single folder for older messages and move everything in to that new folder. You’ll have a clean inbox and can start fresh with filing new messages that come in. Again, you can always search for messages, just as you probably did when everything was in the inbox. Most email programs have the ability to search against all folders.

Summary of Email Management Tips

Ultimately, the best way to manage e-mails is to spend some time actually managing them! It’s easy to just leave messages in the inbox, but then you end up spending a lot of time searching through messages and/or asking people to resend emails to you later on. In the end, it can hurt your productivity and your business. We’re huge fans of a clean inbox and we can tell you that it not only improves productivity but it also has a positive psychological impact.