Maintaining a Productive Email Inbox


A cluttered email inbox can be overwhelming and cause you to be unproductive. When you open your email client, does it inform you that you have 23,037 unread messages? Trust me, I’ve been there and a clean inbox is much easier to deal with.

These are the steps I use to stay productive with email:

  1. Don’t delete email, archive it. Digital storage is cheap. I can’t count the number of times I’ve of done a historical search in my inbox for some old email or document.
  2. If you have a huge backlog of emails, archive everything older than one month old. Seriously. There is no reason to keep old emails in your inbox. If you realize you need to lookup something from your old emails, you can always search through your archives.
  3. Go through each email, one after the other, and act on it. You can archive the message, you can “snooze” the email to pop back into your inbox at a later date, you can reply to the email then archive it, you can report it as spam. The only rule is that each message must leave your inbox in some way.
  4. Only check your email every 2 hours (minimum) and make it a task of emptying your inbox by acting on every message. This way, it’s easy to tell when the task of “doing email” is complete and move on to other things.

In step 3, I mention the use of a “snooze” function. As far as I’m aware, this feature doesn’t exist in all email clients but it does help a lot. If your email client doesn’t support snoozing, you can use a separate “snooze” folder and set manual reminders to drag those messages back into your inbox to be dealt with.

As far as email clients go, I use Newton. I’ve tried a lot of different clients, and so far this has definitely been my favourite.

Keeping a spiffy inbox has helped me reply to emails more quickly and waste less time managing email. I highly recommend it.