8 Time-Saving Tips for Your Inbox

Isabella Kelly-Ramirez
Isabella Kelly-Ramirez, Wildfire. Oil, 32 x 24 inches.

If you’re not overwhelmed by too much email, you’re one of the few.
If you’re fed up with hundreds of messages in your inbox or if you find that you’re not responding to very important messages, it’s time to get a grip on your email.
Here are my top time-saving tips for email.
1. Turn off your email notifications.
You don't need to be interrupted every time your Uncle Charlie sends you a joke. While you’re at it, turn off your notifications from social media sites. Rather than having information pushed at you constantly, pull it from those sites when you’re prepared to spend time there.
2. Stop saving messages for future reference.
Don’t save anything in your inbox that you can find with a simple Google search. Your inbox is for processing messages, not for data storage. There are other ways to save information. Speaking of this . . .
3. Process email, don’t “check” it.
Don't go into your inbox until you're ready to respond, delete, or otherwise act on your messages. Only checking email means you have to later re-read the same email in order to act on it. This is extra work.
4. Don't use your inbox as a task list.
Write down the action you need to take from an email (or just do it), and then delete the email.
5. Don't open your inbox until you're ready for the day.
You are well aware of how email can suck you in with links. Before you know it, it's noon and you're still in your pajamas. The exception, of course, is if you’re awaiting an urgent message.
6. Automatically delete/remove/empty.
Set your email settings to delete anything in your Trash or Junk folder after 30 days. Do the same with the settings on your server in order to avoid sending “inbox full” messages to people who try to contact you.
7. Junk the junk.
Set up rules in your email program to trash or spam email containing certain words or phrases.
8. Unsubscribe.
Remove your name from newsletters, blog feeds, and anything else you no longer read or have an interest in receiving.

I'd Love To Teach You More About Productivity

I have an entire lesson devoted to inbox management (start with getting to zero messages) in the Organize Your Art Biz Class. I teach it just twice a year. Please join us!

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23 thoughts on “8 Time-Saving Tips for Your Inbox”

  1. This is the single best email management advice I’ve seen in years. After gagging daily on the overload I recently started slashing and cutting and unsubscribing with a virtual machete. Thought I’d covered everything, only to learn two more ideas for email efficiency from this column. Thank you, Alyson!

  2. This is wonderful info–I believe you nailed it. I went through the list and followed the advice. I believe #4 will be my saving grace. Thank you, Alyson!

  3. Since I took your advise from the get organized class: no 1. Turn off your e-mail notification; I work so much more productive without having the interruption/distraction. Thank you Alyson

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Were you ever on AOL and got the “You’ve got mail” voice? That was so exciting – back then.

  4. Just reduced my list from about 6o to 6…still in my pajamas but well worth it! Trying to get more saavy about transferring things immediately to the calendar. Thanks for the bonk on the head!
    p.s. my only other tip is that if I see 2 “fwd” in To: address I immediately delete. If the sender can’t remove all the junk and personalize it, I don’t need it!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Cindy: Oh, no. That’s another piece of advice: Don’t look at your inbox until you’re dressed for the day.

  5. I need this one!! I have all these notification pings for emails and social medias and feel compelled to check my inbox every few min. It is so draining!!! I am turning them all off! Duh! Why didn’t I think of this before??

  6. The only thing that I might add that has helped me stay on top of my inbox is having a specific folder for specific emails. For example, I have a folder for my various “news” emails and another one takes in all of my notifications for shipping activities. I can check that separate in-box once a week then pull the folders from my “recent shipments” file drawer when I see the delivery is complete. I also have some for specific newsletters like Alyson’s. That way, when I open that folder – It’s all Alyson! (WHAT A TREAT!) Having this separate file/box in my email program (thunderbird) lets me stay focused on THAT specific subject and not get too distracted by a list that has all the incoming messages.
    I also organize/simplify by using the “unread” view and utilize the From column as my sorting tool. It puts everything in clearer view for me if I get 50 – 100 or more emails in one day – which is normal for me. Once a month I purge as needed using the “all” view with “From” column. sorting.
    If I have an important client correspondence, I save the email in their file folder in my accounts folders. So everything is archived (but not in my email program per se) including orders sent via email.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      I’m glad that works for you, Mckenna. I used to have folders for various emails, but I found that they just became giant file cabinets and I never read anything in them.

  7. At work, I’m bringing back that idea of stating the intent of an email in the subject line, such as – “ACTION: Client Updates Due Tuesday” or “FYI: New Policy Announced” or “EVENT: Making Dinner (the band) plays July 30th at the Makeout Room”
    I know it’s outgoing email, but it ends up saving a couple back-and-forth emails or follow-ups I have to do.
    Love the one about only looking at email when I’m ready to do something about it.
    I also have a separate email address I use for all mailing lists (for bands, artists, organizations, newsletters, etc.) so I know I only check that email if I’m looking to be entertained. Also, when I set an out of office email with personal info on my main email address, I know it’s only going to personal contacts (without having to designate individual names).

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Zarah: The intent in the subject line is excellent. Eye-catching AND practical.

  8. On a recent trip to visit my folks in NH I found myself, blissfully, without any internet connections other than a trip to the library, and I didn’t. Well, the world continued to turn on it’s axis, my Mom and I had a great time planning places to paint ( in fact she signed up for a plein air day at a local park. Not bad at 82 and my Dad, at 84, is getting in on the fun too ’cause man can that man draw!!!!) Anyway…I did not miss email, FB or even a cell phone, and had one of the most productive weeks of my life. What did we do before all this “technology”? We wrote letters, made phone calls and actually got a lot done. Nothing against instant anything, but you’re right, it sure can slow and weigh you down. I for one, will pick and chose from here on out and hit delete. Isn’t that what the key is there for after all?
    Good newsletter Alyson.
    Happily renewed,

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Martha: Same thing happened to me in VT last fall. Once I resigned myself to the fact that I would be without connectivity, I was fine – for awhile. I learned: 1) I can delete hundreds of email in very little time and 2) I do NOT like being w/o connectivity.

  9. Great advice! I setup separate email accounts for different aspects of my work. They’re all on my domain, but only one is public for people to contact me.
    I have sales notifications (via PayPal) come in on a dedicated address. I leave my email open to that one so I only get ‘distracted’ by good news without having to weed through other correspondence and questions until I’m ready to answer them.
    I also have a dedicated address for lists I need to subscribe to and one for notifications (only this related to marketing that I’m currently monitoring in pursuit if various strategies).
    In non studio moments I can see all my inboxes on one screen on my iPhone or iPad and respond accordingly. I get the satisfaction of seeing those inboxes get empty without taking away from my studio time, which works better for me than letting them mount up in folders.
    Best of all I no longer groan at my main inbox because it’s no longer so huge!
    PS. When processing my other emails, I clip my favorite parts of your newsletters and file them in Evernote so I can cross reference ideas I want to use on down the line.

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  12. Fredda from The Magnificent Magnet

    Hello Alyson~
    Glad I found you through Handmadeology.
    LOL…I never knew I had a bit of obsessive-compulsive in me until I realized how much time I was spending checking not only my email, but my Etsy shop stats, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Items #1, 3, and 5 all hit home with me…so thank you for the advice.
    And I will look forward to reading more from you!
    The Magnificent Magnet

    1. Fredda: I’m glad you found me, too! Thanks for coming by. I’m glad you found this post helpful.

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