TWT Blog

How to Take Back Control of Your Inbox


We all seem to have the same problem — an email problem. We’re drowning in email. Hundreds (maybe even thousands) arrive in our inboxes every week. If you do anything other than check your email all day (you know, like eat or attend a meeting or do some actual work), your inbox quickly spirals out of control.

With a constant stream of newsletters, status updates and purchase receipts, we risk missing the really important emails. They get buried. Unread emails are also a big source of stress. You may even get yourself locked out of your email account because you don’t have enough storage space left.

Here are some tips for taking back control of your inbox:

Consider using Google for your email

We’re big fans of Google for email. If you or your company use it, you can download the Inbox app, which has lots of handy features for organizing your inbox (or you can just use it on your desktop).

It’s possible to snooze a message and have it pop up again when you know you’ll have time to deal with it. You can also mark a message as “done,” as well as pin it to the top of your inbox if it is particularly important.

Bundle emails together so that recurring items like receipts or Basecamp updates are grouped together for easier access. You can apply a rule that keeps less-than-important emails from even appearing in your inbox, which cuts down on clutter and overwhelm.

Take a tour of the app’s features in the video below.

Turn off notifications

Some of us are good at multitasking. Some of us … are not.

When that email notification pops up on our desktop or phone, it can be hard not to stop what we’re doing to click on it. You then get distracted from whatever task you were doing to read an email from IT about a planned network outage the next morning at 4 a.m. (not important!)

Don’t neglect your inbox forever, but turn off notifications to avoid feeling like you can’t any tasks finished.

Only tackle your inbox when you have the time to dedicate to it

There’s no use stressing out over your inbox on your phone right before going to bed. You don’t have the time or energy to devote to sorting through emails. The same goes for Friday afternoons right before everyone leaves for the day.

Set a time (or multiple times) each for sitting down with the sole purpose of replying to, deleting and actioning emails. Put the reminder in your calendar so that you don’t forget.

Consider making rules about when you can send email

Some businesses actually have rules about when in the day you’re allowed to send an email. For example, you can’t send an email before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m.

This gives you the peace of mind knowing that you can leave the office at the end of the day and not return to 540 unread emails. Of course, this isn’t always practical (emergencies are obviously an exception). But if you’re about to hit send at 10:55 p.m., take a moment to consider whether you really need to filling up someone’s inbox that late at night.

If possible, just go talk to someone (or log onto Skype)

Email is great for remote teams, working with clients and establishing a paper trail. But sometimes you don’t need to email that person sitting next to you. Or the person in the department down the hall.

If your request is simple, get up, talk a walk and have a chat. You’ll stretch your legs and avoid a cumbersome back-and-forth email chain. If your team member is remote or working from home, consider sending them an instant message or calling them on Skype (or whatever VoIP system you’re using).


Topics: To consider