Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. However, the promise of an easier, more productive life is sometimes lost behind layers of jargon, settings and twenty-seven character passwords. Today, I want to give you some practical advice on how to manage your inbox more effectively.

  1. Define the Perfect State: Visualize what your “clean inbox” looks like, what do you want the new normal to be? Is your inbox empty of all emails? How will you use your folders? What is your typical to-do list routine? How do you prioritize?
  2. Snap the Ariel Photo: Define the broad categories of your life. What are the “hats” you wear?
  3. Create Thoughtful Folders: Construct two types of new inbox folders.
    1. One Active Follow-Up Folder for active and action-pending items, this is your to-do list/reminders.
    2. No more than 10 Storage Folders for things that are done. Consider how you search for things, how you organize things in your mind, and how you group the conversations and projects in your life.
  4. Standardize Calendar Categories: Consider the use of color-coding in your calendar. Your calendar may not contain the exact same system as your email, use a maximum of 5 to 8 categories for your calendar to reduce confusion and eye strain. Consider: Department of Pediatrics, Center for Healthy Lifestyles, Important, Clinic, Personal, Reminder, or Not Attending.
  5. Clean-Up Inbox Tool: Use the clean-up tool to discard old and/or large emails. Delete or archive items older than 6 months or larger than 250 kilobytes. Archive items by creating an “email archive” folder on your desktop folders.
  6. Use Rules to Clean Inbox: Set rules around defined parameters to sort emails into your new folders. Consider the searchable terms, everything from “Daily E-News Administrator” or “I.S. Information Technology” and collect those items for the trash or for a specified folder.
  7. Condense Conversations: Separate emails into conversations to save only the most recent or important email.  Right click on the “By Date” and check “Show in Conversations” to see all the emails associated with one train of thought. Use this to identify the most important/most updated email to save.
  8. Delete Clean-Up Rules: Delete clean-up rules. Clean-up rules should not be left on for more than 15 minutes. Define new permanent rules more cautiously.
  9. Consider Long-Term Maintenance: Visualize your “clean inbox” perfect state, how will you endure? How do you use your to-do list? How do your inbox and calendar work together? Are there permanent rules to set? Are there quick-steps to set? Have you considered your ‘view’ with message preview, reading pane, and task list?
    1. Daily Goal for Email Inbox:
    2. Daily Goal for Calendar:
    3. 6-Month Goal for Storage: