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4 Tips for Wrangling Your
Out-of-Control Email

Written by Maria Peot, Event Planner

After a recent vacation when I completely cut off from work for a week, I came back to an absolute disaster of an email inbox. After several days of playing catch up, I still felt like things were out of control. The constant ding of a new email arriving in my inbox gave me anxiety and took away what little focus I had on the piles of projects that lay in front of me.


Even if I worked all day long and into the evening or even late at night, I felt like I couldn’t get all that evil email tackled. I started to feel like burnout was impending, and knew that I had to make a change. I spoke with my boss, and she shared best practices and expectations from company management. She also initiated a discussion with our team about reasonable expectations as they relate to email between team members. With this new information, I decided to take on a new approach with my email, and am sharing my tips below. The things I am suggesting are by no means mind-blowing…but taking time to intentionally change how I was handling email has made a HUGE difference in how I get work done.

  1. Turn off ALL alerts
    It is INCREDIBLY distracting to hear a ding or see a preview pop up on one of your devices. I took a few minutes to disable the alerts on my computer, phone, and iPad. I found that once I saw the alert, I couldn’t UNSEE it, and I felt the need to immediately tackle that email, which distracted me from whatever project or task I was working on.
  2. Set aside a time each day to respond to emails
    I block time off on my calendar to focus specifically on sorting and responding to email. I REALLY try to stick with it, and others are catching on to it, as well. My teammates know that if they need something from me right away, email isn’t the way to go. And we have plenty of other forms of communication (phone, IM, project management software) that we use, so I don’t feel bad about it. Now, do I deviate from this at times? Of course! But these are my own rules, so I can break them if I want, right?
  3. Create folders to stay organized
    I’ve always had a TON of folders to keep my emails organized, so I just added one more titled “NEED TO FOLLOW UP.” This is where I file away emails that I can’t respond to quickly or that I will need to take the time to read more in depth later. Once I’ve sorted through new emails in the inbox, I go to the “NEED TO FOLLOW UP” folder, and prioritize what I need to respond to. I lump together emails that are related to a similar topic and tackle those one after another. Once I’ve followed up on an email, I file it away in its appropriate folder (which sometimes is the Trash!) and move on to the next item.
  4. Send less emails
    I must credit my “friend” Organized Audrey for this tip. I use “friend” in quotes because I only met Audrey once when she presented a session at a conference I attended. However, she provides me some of the greatest tips about staying organized in both my work and personal life! So, it makes sense that the more email you send, the more you will receive, right? If you send less email, you will have less email coming in. This may mean cutting back on the simple “Thank you!” response. Simply stating “Thanks in advance” on your original message still gets your point across, but eliminates the extra Thank You and You’re Welcome messages that often bog up the inbox.

I’ve been using these tactics for a few weeks now, and I feel much more productive at work and much more relaxed when I am not at work. I’ve become more efficient and focused, and am better able to start and finish important projects. I have less anxiety and am able to cut myself off from work in the evenings.

What are some tips you have for getting your email inbox under control?

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