Written by: Kary Glawe, WISE Associate Project Manager & Virtual Assistant

Fast moving inboxes torment business owners, people stress about being away from their desk because their inbox just keeps piling up. Think thousands of unread, unfiled emails that can go back for years…YEARS! I’ve sorted some inboxes that would make even the most easy-going of you cringe. I conquered those and I can help you to conquer yours. Here are some tips on how I do it.

Keep your business email separate.

Many entrepreneurs do everything from one email account and it makes it overwhelming. There is no need for your personal Amazon order confirmations to be junking up your business inbox.

It’s so much easier to bring on an admin to your inbox if you don’t have items like doctor’s appointments and private messages with friends and family in your inbox.

If you haven’t separated your email, do it now. Seriously, stop reading this and set up your new/fresh inbox.

If it’s not current, mark it as read.

Is your inbox one of the ones with unread emails that go back for YEARS? Bulk mark everything older than a month out as read. Yes, really!

“If it’s a month old, it does not need your attention.”

You can always bring on an admin to sort and file the read messages at a later date, but the first step in an organized inbox is getting that Unread number down.

Scan/Sort your entire inbox when you start working each day.

I don’t mean right when you wake up, before you’ve taken the kids to school, because that’ll stress even the calmest morning. I mean, on your first scheduled work block of the day, hit your inbox first.

This allows you to prioritize your responses.

I like to fire out anything that I can answer with a quick 2-minute response right then and there. Anything that requires more attention I leave unread in my inbox to answer as I go.

Turn off the notifications.

This is the most common inbox management tip we hear, but it’s TRUE!

Turn the sounds off, turn the notices off.

I know we’ve all felt at times that our responses are vital and urgent, but it’s best to have a policy with your team to use another form of communication if they need something within an hour.

After your initial inbox check, step away and only go back to it at a few set times throughout the day.

Don’t over digitize your inbox.

This tip may seem counterproductive, but I personally don’t love having too many auto-sort and auto-read rules. I find that it leads to missed messages. I prefer for most of my emails to come directly into my inbox and then I quickly work through them as mentioned above.

Inbox rules are not useful if your folders are continuously growing with unread emails. My exceptions to this rule: store emails and social media.

I will auto-file any advertisement emails. I also auto-file any social media distractors. Facebook and Twitter notices, get auto-filed, but I leave them as unread and quickly scan them once every few days.

Use smart tools.

One of my favorites is Sortd. It allows you to make to-do lists right in your inbox.

If you upgrade to the team version you can easily comment back and forth on emails and see what’s waiting on a response right in your inbox.

My clients love using Sortd for categories like “Action Needed Today”, “Bills to Pay”, or even specific action item lists like “Send Facebook Invitations”. Emails can be drug right to the appropriate board and quickly checked off as done without ever leaving your inbox. Setting up this system is one of the easiest tasks to delegate to our team. It allows an admin to have control over your inbox, showing you exactly what needs to be done

Bring it offline.

If you find yourself going back and forth on an email chain, that’s not efficient for you or anyone on the email chain.

If something can be handled quickly with a 5-minute phone call, pick up the phone!

I hope you’ve found a tip or two that can help you to manage your inbox more smoothly. It is overwhelming, I know – I clean out inboxes all the time, but you’ve only got the one and you CAN do it.


Still overwhelmed? Give us a call! We would love to help you tackle that inbox and set up some systems that work for you.