I’ve been called a weirdo for various reasons throughout my life, one of those being my strange inbox. My friends that have thousands of unread emails in their Inbox (which makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack when I see it) look at my Inbox and ask where all my emails are. When someone asks about a recent email or file that was sent around, I feel like a quick-draw gunslinger because I can usually find that item faster than anyone else.
Here’s how I do it:
- Have a place for everything
This is a delicate balance. You want everything to have its place without being too specific. The way I tackle this is by having main folders for every project and sub-folders for items that are important and I often need to reference, such as SOWs, presentations, and status documents. That way, those important items are always easily accessible.
- BCC yourself
This is a trick I learned a few years ago. It’s easy to see what emails are waiting for you to answer from other people, but what about the emails you send? They only live in your Sent folder and it can be a pain to check to see if someone responded to your question or provided the item you needed. So, I started BCCing myself on all my emails. That way I can easily keep track of what requests are still outstanding.
An advanced way of doing this to help decrease clutter and distraction is to create a Rule within Outlook to automatically mark emails from yourself as read and not send notifications for them. I use similar rules for industry news and alerts that I receive daily. Instead of having them clutter my Inbox, I have created Outlook Rules so they are automatically marked as read, do not send off a notification, and are instantly placed in an “Industry” folder that I can access when needed.
- Archive when a task is done
My dream is to have a 0 inbox, but that’s basically a unicorn in today’s world. To get as close as I can, I file an email as soon as the task it describes is complete. If no task is linked to an email, I file it immediately. This allows my inbox to only include my uncompleted tasks and lets me quickly see what needs to be done and where I need to follow up.
So those are my tips to help organize your Inbox. With this system, I’ve been able to go from an Inbox of thousands of emails to one that’s usually 20 or so messages that only takes one scroll to see everything. This has helped me quickly know what needs to get done that day so I can be more productive.