How to Avoid Email Inbox Overload
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
When I start working with a new client, the first question I ask is, “Which processes and tasks are most redundant, overwhelming, and time-consuming for you?”
For many of my clients, the email inbox is one of the most difficult things to manage.
They say it’s hard to keep up with, they don’t feel like it’s organized, and they spend way too much time sorting through emails.
If this all sounds familiar, keep reading for my top tips for avoiding email inbox overload.
1. Click Unsubscribe
Anytime you submit your email address to receive a freebie, make a purchase on a website, or register for a giveaway, chances are you’ve been added to a company’s email list.
This means you’re probably receiving tons of marketing emails that sit in your inbox unopened.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to start unsubscribing!
For senders or companies whose emails you haven’t opened in the last 90 days, clear out your inbox by hitting the unsubscribe button (usually found at the bottom of an email in the fine print).
If there’s a company whose emails you truly enjoy, or coupons you’ll occasionally use, then I suggest sending them to the Promotions category/tab or special folder, or setting up a rule or filter. This will keep your inbox from getting crowded and you from getting distracted.
2. Customize Your Inbox Setup
The way you view and receive messages in your inbox can make a big difference in managing email overload.
Conversations - Viewing emails as “Conversations,” a setting available in both Gmail and Outlook, will group messages with the same subject line into one thread, instead of separating them all into individual messages.
This can reduce the number of messages in your inbox, and also make it easier to review previous emails in the same conversation.
Split Screen - Using a split-screen view, known as a reading pane in Outlook or a Split view in Gmail, allows you to view your list of emails on one half of the screen and the contents of your emails on the other half.
This can be helpful for quickly reading, reviewing, and sorting through emails without having to switch screens or wait for emails to open.
Categories and Inbox Types (Gmail only) - You can choose from different inbox types and inbox categories (or tabs), which determines how and where emails appear.
For instance, if you enable your Promotions tab, Gmail will automatically sort messages it deems are “marketing, interests, social and political causes, and other promotional emails” into this tab instead of your primary Inbox tab.
Another example is to set up an Unread First Inbox type which will create two sections in your primary inbox, one for all of your unread emails and another for your read emails.
3. Use Rules or Filters
For emails you receive regularly but don’t require any action, such as receipts for monthly subscriptions, order confirmations, or monthly newsletters, you can set up a rule or filter so those emails get automatically filed in a receipts or newsletters folder.
If you’re CC’d on lots of emails from your team, set up a rule or filter sending all emails you’re CC’d on to a specific folder. You’ll be able to see the number of unread messages (if any) in your list of folders, but you won’t risk getting distracted every time a message from your team comes in.
There’s a lot more you can do with this feature, some of which depends on whether you’re using Outlook or Gmail.
For instance, with Outlook, you can automatically flag messages for follow-up based on very specific criteria. In Gmail, you can automatically forward emails from a certain sender or with a specific subject line to another person.
Fewer emails coming into your inbox means less interruptions, less time spent sending them to folders, and less time spent working.
4. Create Tasks From Emails
When an email comes in that you need to act or follow up on, you can easily turn it into a task, give it a due date, and file away the message.
Now, instead of a message that can get lost or forgotten in your inbox, you have a task on your to-do list.
In Outlook, when you create a task from an email, the content from your message will be copied into the task. Then, you can add a due date, assign it to someone, or add additional notes.
In Gmail, when you turn an email into a task, the message itself will attach to the task so it’s easy to click on and reference when you need it. You can also set the due date, add notes, and even subtasks if needed.
By using Tasks, your action items are kept front and center while your inbox is kept clean and organized.
By applying one or more of these tips, you can avoid email overwhelm and increase your productivity.
Let me know how using these ideas helped you and/or if you have any other tips and tricks for inbox management by leaving a comment below. I always love to learn new things!
If you're not sure where to start or need help getting streamlined, schedule a free consultation and we'll talk about how I can help.