Inbox Organization Tips

A more productive workday—and happier downtime—starts with an organized inbox. An unruly inbox is as damaging to your productivity as it is to your sanity. Melanie Masterson offers her advice.

5 Steps to Inbox Sanity

FOLDERS ARE YOUR FRIENDS

Instead of archiving emails aimlessly, Melanie has folders for every aspect of her job. “It’s the best way to stay organized and find things quickly when you need them,” she explains. “I have folders for social media, reporting, PR—the list goes on.”

SORT EMAILS IMMEDIATELY

Once you’ve noted any takeaways and completed any next steps from an email, immediately sort it into its respective folder. Only leave things in your inbox that still require your attention—that way those outstanding emails won’t get lost in the shuffle of already-completed tasks. “If I wait until the end of the week to sort everything, it feels like another project to do,” says Melanie. “When I sort my emails as soon as I address them, I feel productive.”

INBOX ZERO IS OVERRATED

“My goal is to at least open and read all of my emails—and to have no more than 30 emails in my inbox—by the end of the day,” Melanie explains, “but that doesn’t mean I’ve completed the tasks inside them and filed them away. Because I’ve at least opened all of the emails, I can go home knowing I’ve addressed the important or time-sensitive ones.”

It may seem counterintuitive—as emails pop up on your screen, it’s hard not to answer them, which gets distracting. However, seeing each email as it comes in allows you to filter through only what’s really urgent without opening your inbox. Melanie says, “As emails pop up, I read the subject lines to make sure they’re not time-sensitive,” says Melanie. “Other than that, I only actually open my inbox every half hour at the most.”

SET UP DESKTOP NOTIFICATIONS

“If I’m working on a big project that requires a lot of focus, I close my email altogether. I don’t do it often; I only do this when I’m working in the office, so that if something is truly urgent someone can pop by my desk,” says Melanie.

KNOW WHEN TO CUT IT OFF

Scroll Up