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How to keep a tidy inbox

Keep a tidy inbox

A cluttered inbox can lead to missed business opportunities, forgotten appointments and even fines or fees for late payments. In this article we show you how to keep a tidy inbox and how you can make your mailbox work for you.

Treat your inbox as a todo list

When you receive an email there are usually only 5 things you can do with it…

  1. Read it, Action it and File it (RAF).
  2. Reply to it and file it.
  3. Forward it and file it.
  4. Unsubscribe from it and delete it.
  5. If it’s spam just delete it.

If you can get in the habit of performing one of these 5 actions on every email then your inbox should be (mostly) empty. Of course there are some emails that need work before you can reply. For example you might need to prepare a proposal or collaborate with a colleague before replying. These messages can stay in your inbox until the work is done.

By keeping only emails that need some action, your inbox has just become your todo list.

Use folders to keep a tidy inbox

In 90% of cases, mailbox overload is simply because a user isn’t using ‘folders’ yet. Folders allow you to create a filing system inside your email program. What folder structure you use is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong as long as it’s logical enough for you to find the folder you need – easily.

Don’t forget you can have folders inside folders too. So for example, I have a ‘Customers’ folder, inside that I have a ‘VIP’ folder. In that VIP folder I have your company name.

Anytime you email me I ‘RAF’ (Read, Action and File) your message. Once I’ve Read and Actioned your email I’ve completed my side so, as the ball is now in your court, I don’t need your message in my inbox anymore. So I File it while I wait for your reply.

However, if I can’t instantly action your email I keep it in my inbox until I can. You see, it acts as my todo list.

Only keep the most recent replies

Another cause of mailbox overload is a whole trail of messages in an inbox. This only serves to cause clutter. Sometimes a whole conversation of 20, 30 or more emails quickly fills an inbox making it feel overwhelming.

There’s 2 reasons why you don’t want to keep every email in the trail in your inbox.

  1. Other important messages are easily lost in the pile of messages.
  2. The latest email usually has the whole conversation trail inside it anyway.

By using the RAF (Read, Action, File) approach to keep things tidy it’s much easier to know what’s left over that needs your attention.

Keep a tidy inbox for a fast mailbox

Too many emails in your inbox can slow down your mail too. The ‘recommended’ limit for the inbox is about 2,000 items. Of course, you want your inbox to become your todo list so 2,000 messages is still far too many. You should really aim to keep under 100 messages in your inbox.

Why is there a recommended limit? Because your email program needs to keep email in sync with the cloud and possibly your mobile devices. Checking if each email is in sync only takes a fraction of a second. However, if we multiply that by, say, 50,000 emails in your inbox that’s about 50 seconds! That’s 50 seconds waiting for email to open. It’s even a 50 second delay on new emails coming in!

Is it too late?

Never! With a little bit of time set aside and your new RAF attitude you’ll get your mailbox tidy in no time.

If you keep more than 100 messages in your inbox, here’s how to tidy it real quick…

Step 1 – Create the folders

Simply right click on ‘Inbox’ on the left side and select ‘New Folder’. Give the folder a sensible name. Don’t forget you can have sub folders here.

Here’s a simple guide

Step 2 – Move big chunks

My advice would be to temporarily sort your inbox in order of ‘From‘. This will group all the emails together by sender. Then click on the top one of the batch. Hold down the shift key and click on the last message in the batch.

That will highlight a whole batch of emails in blue. Now just drag the bunch of messages to your new folder. Inbox cleared and tidy!

A tidy inbox is a tidy mind

That’s it! Enjoy your newfound ‘RAF’ attitude and your sparkling clean inbox. As always, if you need any assistance or guidance in tidying your mailbox our tech team are standing by so please contact us on 03333 055 055.

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