Tame Your Beast of an Inbox
Has your inbox become an ever-present shadow looming over you?
You’re not the only one struggling to tame the inbox beast. Every animal is different of course, but here are some strategies that have worked for others:
- Use instant messaging or phone calls to clarify. It’s rare that initial email confusion can be clarified with more emails. Back-and-forth emails can overwhelm your inbox and your brain. Use a more immediate communication channel to nip an out-of-control email chain in the bud.
- Keep searchability in mind when you write subject lines. Subject lines that capture the gist of your emails won’t only help your recipients; they’ll also help you search and find messages you need later on.
- Don’t catch up on emails during your off time. We know it may be tempting to get “ahead” while you’re relaxing, but doing so may just increase your feelings of overwhelm and turn you into an inbox slave.
- Don’t let inbox management be a 24/7 task. Set aside blocks of time specifically for triaging emails. Focus and respond to everything during these blocks and then focus on your other to-dos.
- Create folders for everything, even messages you don’t know what to do with. Classifying and organizing all the messages can decrease feelings of overwhelm, even if some of the folders come with big question marks.
- Color code everything. You might find this makes organizing the inbox a little more fun.
- Leverage other tech for inbox management. Even with a pristine organizational scheme, it can be hard for your brain to keep track of everything. As you go through emails, use a calendar or reminder tool to record every action-item, follow up, and due date.
- Create a label or folder for “out of your court” items. If you’re waiting on others for responses or to complete follow-up tasks, then get those messages out of your main inbox. Assign them with descriptive labels so you can remember what you’re waiting for.