How To Organize Email: 13 Tips On Organizing Your Inbox

The Huffington Post Canada   First Posted: 02/21/2012 8:53 am Updated: 02/21/2012 11:18 am

With spring around the corner, most of us bring out brooms and wastebaskets. But when it comes to organizing your inbox, you're better off with a mouse.

"People have so many demands and so many things others want us to do. This is why our emails need be organized," says Alex Moore, CEO of Baydin Inc., a startup focused on email organization.

Moore, who trained in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, and his team launched Revive Your Inbox, a 21-day free program, after many of his clients mentioned wanting to clean up their inboxes as a New Year's resolution.

On average, most employees spend half their day using email in counterproductive ways, according to a study by communications company Fonality. And when you do decide to check those notices about meeting minutes or lunch dates with your partner, it can take up to 64 seconds of your time, according to a study by Loughborough University.

"The worst is checking your emails throughout the day. You don’t want to live in your inbox," Moore says. However, if your job does require you to routinely check messages, keeping a clean inbox will limit stress, he says.

Moore and his team have plenty of tips to help you declutter that inbox. Archives? Labels? Email boomerang? If these email savvy words sound foreign, it's time to learn a new vocabulary:

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  • Inbox Personalities

    Before you attempt to conquer your inbox, there are two types of email personalities you should know about: The pilers and the filers. <br>Pilers are people who keep every message they've ever received, while filers take every message out of their inbox and move it to folders. <br><strong>TIP:</strong> Before you start managing your inbox, it's <a href="" target="_hplink">important to figure out what you should prioritize first. </a>

  • Turn Off Email Notifications

    Unless your job demands replies within minutes, checking your email can harm your overall productivity. On average, it takes 64 seconds to fully recover from being interrupted by an email, according to Loughborough University. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong><br>Locate your "Settings" or "Tools" menu and turn off your "notifications" options and save. <a href="" target="_hplink">This list has all the steps, depending on the type of email program you use. </a>

  • Unsubscribe From Junk Email

    Think about this: It only takes a few seconds to delete one junk message, but deleting a newsletter every day for the next year will consume over 30 minutes. <strong><br> TIPS:</strong> Look through emails that are currently in your inbox. For any that you don't read regularly or don't find valuable, hit the unsubscribe link.

  • Search For Email

    When you don't need a message, you can't avoid seeing it in your inbox. But when you do need it, it's gone. Sound familiar? Mastering the art of "search" can help you recover lost messages. <br><strong>KEY TERMS (to enter into search field):</strong> <br><strong>from:</strong> -- Searches messages from a specific sender name or email address.<br> <strong>before: -- </strong>Searches for messages sent before a date. <br>For more search words, visit<a href="" target="_hplink"> Revive Your Inbox. </a>

  • Clean Up A Messy Inbox

    The different email systems require their own techniques for total email 'cleanliness.' Too numerous to outline here, Revive Your Inbox has deatiled the various <a href="" target="_hplink">steps from Gmail, Outlook and other email systems,</a> including tools you didn't know existed.

  • Deferring Messages

    Deferring emails lets you remove non-urgent notices from your inbox and receive a reminder later. You can defer a message using folders, a calendar, or a reminder service like <a href="" target="_hplink">Boomerang for Gmail</a>.

  • Which Messages Should I Delete?

    On average, we delete 71 messages every day. Deleting a message takes an average of 3.2 seconds. Go through your inbox -- which emails are you usually deleting everyday? Spam or office threads? Figuring out which emails are easy to delete will help with faster searches and keep you under your mailbox size quota.

  • Five Sentence Emails

    For most email responses, it only takes 73 seconds to write a reply. To maximize your time (and the recipient's time too), don't go over five sentences.

  • Prioritize Your Email

    We get approximately 12 messages a day that ask for substantial effort, and these can add 90 minutes to a workday. If an email needs more than five minutes of effort, move it to a to-do list and prioritize those first.

  • Use Templates To Automate Email

    Using email templates for standard and oft-used responses can save you 60 seconds per message. Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, Apple Mail and Thunderbird all have their own messaging templates.

  • Schedule Emails To Be Sent Later

    The best times to send emails are before work and during lunch hours. An email sent at 6 a.m. is three times more likely to get clicked on than one sent at 4 p.m.

  • Use Folders And Labels

    Folders and labels are powerful tools that can be used to add searchable context to your inbox messages. However, apply with caution: having too many categories will clutter your inbox.

  • Use Keyboard Shortcuts

    The rule of keyboard shortcuts is exactly the same as the rule of glue: A little does a lot, but a lot can make a mess. Some say using keyboard shortcuts is faster than using a mouse. <br><strong>TIP:</strong> The optimal number of keyboard shortcuts to memorize is seven -- for everything else, use a mouse. Check out this<a href="" target="_hplink"> 'make your own' cheatsheet for Gmail.</a>