5 tips to take control of your inbox

Email is now crucial in our daily lives, both professionally and personally. Did you know that the average person gets more than 120 emails daily? Sorting through and responding to them can consume hours, causing stress, reduced productivity, and potential burnout.

This blog post discusses five tips to regain control of your inbox and improve your well-being.

Table of Contents

Tip #1: Set up filters and folders to organise your emails

You can set filters to automatically sort and label emails from specific senders or with certain keywords. You can also create folders to store emails related to specific projects or topics, making it easier to find and prioritise important messages.

To set up filters in Gmail:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Select the gear icon.
  3. Choose “Settings”.
  4. Select the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab.
  5. Choose “Create a new filter”.
  6. Choose specific criteria for the filter, such as the sender, subject line, or keywords in the email.
  7. Choose to apply a label, archive, delete, or forward the email to a specific folder.

Similarly, in Outlook, you can create rules to automatically move emails to specific folders based on certain criteria.

Benefits of filtering emails into folders

Filters help you organise and control your emails effectively, allowing you to manage your inbox effortlessly.

  • Declutter your inbox: You can filter out unwanted emails such as newsletters, promotions, and social media notifications, which can clutter your inbox and distract you from important messages.
  • Increase productivity: Clearing your inbox helps you save time and be more productive by prioritising important emails.
  • Organise your emails: Additionally, filters can help you organise your inbox and make it easier to find specific messages.

Tip #2: Unsubscribe from unwanted or irrelevant emails

You can unsubscribe from store emails or gym membership emails that promote expired sales or services you no longer use. Additionally, if you receive emails from unknown senders or ones that contain spam, it is best to unsubscribe to avoid any potential security risks or clutter in your inbox.

Identifying unwanted emails

  • You can search your inbox using keywords like “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” to find unwanted emails.
  • Another way is to use third-party tools like Unroll.me, which can scan your inbox and identify newsletters and promotional emails.

Unsubscribing from unwanted emails

Once you have identified these emails, you can either:

  • Unsubscribe manually, or
  • Use Gmail’s unsubscribe feature, which appears at the top of the email.
    This feature lets you easily unsubscribe with just one click instead of going through the sender’s website.

By regularly unsubscribing to unwanted emails, you can keep your inbox clean and free from distractions.

Tip #3: Schedule specific times to check and process your emails

Constantly checking your inbox can harm productivity and raise stress levels.

Block out time in your calendar for email tasks

To stay on top of your email tasks, schedule dedicated times for checking and managing your emails.

  • Block out time in your calendar each day or week to focus solely on your inbox.
  • Pick a convenient time for you, like early in the morning or immediately after lunch.
  • During this time, avoid any distractions and focus solely on responding to important emails, deleting spam, and organising your inbox.

By sticking to a schedule, you can avoid constantly checking your inbox throughout the day and stay productive.

How often should I check my emails?

The frequency and timing of checking emails may vary depending on your role, workload, and personal preferences. For example:

  • If you work directly with customers, check your inbox often to make sure you reply promptly to enquiries.
  • Alternatively, if your job doesn’t demand frequent email communication, checking your inbox once or twice a day may suffice.
  • You have the option to check your emails either when you commence or conclude your workday or intermittently at various intervals during the day.

Focus on one thing at a time and avoid multitasking

Stay productive. It’s important to concentrate on one task at a time, regardless of your email-checking frequency or timing. Multitasking can reduce efficiency and raise stress levels.

  • When you do check your inbox, prioritise your emails based on urgency and importance.
  • Respond to urgent messages first, and then move on to less pressing matters.

To stay organised and prevent overwhelm, focus on prioritising tasks and avoiding multitasking.

Use the 4 Ds method to deal with each email

The 4 Ds method is a helpful tool for managing your inbox and staying organised.

  1. The first D stands for “delete.” This means that if an email is spam or irrelevant, you should delete it immediately.
  2. The second D is “delegate.” You can pass on an email from a colleague asking for help with a project outside your expertise to someone more suitable for the task.
  3. The third D is “do.” If an email requires action from you, prioritise it based on urgency and importance and respond accordingly.
  4. The final D is “defer.” If an email requires action but can wait, schedule a time to address it later.

Examples of emails that fall under each category and how to handle them quickly and efficiently

  • Delete: A spam email promoting a product that you have no interest in would fall under the Delete category.
  • Delegate: An email from a colleague requesting assistance with a project that is not within your area of expertise could be delegated to someone who is better equipped to handle it.
  • Do: If you receive an urgent email from your boss requesting a report by the end of the day, that would fall under the Do category and should be prioritised accordingly.
  • Defer: Finally, an email from a vendor with a proposal that you need to review but can wait until next week would fall under the Defer category, and you can schedule a time to review it later.

Follow these steps to manage your inbox effectively and respond to emails promptly.

Tip #5: Set boundaries and expectations with your email communication

To effectively manage your email inbox, prioritise and categorise your emails while also establishing clear boundaries and expectations with the people who send them. To avoid confusion and enhance clarity, it’s vital to ensure agreement among all parties involved. Here are email guidelines to follow:

  • Be clear and polite about your availability, response time, and prefered mode of contact.
  • Let them know when you typically check your emails and how quickly they can expect a response from you.
  • If you prefer to be contacted via phone or in person for urgent matters, make sure to communicate that as well.

By setting these boundaries and expectations, you can avoid the stress of feeling constantly available and ensure that you are able to manage your inbox effectively. Remember, effective communication is the key to successful email management.

Examples of email signatures, autoresponders, or templates that you can use to convey these messages

Email signature example:
“Thank you for your email. I check my inbox twice daily and reply within 24 hours.” For urgent matters, please contact me via phone at [insert number].”

Autoresponder example:
“Thank you for your email. Please note that I am currently out of the office and will not be checking my inbox until [insert date]. For urgent matters, please contact [insert name and contact information]. I will respond to all other emails upon my return.”

Template example:
Interview with [Your Company] for the [job title] position

Hi [name],

Thanks for your application to [company name]. We were impressed by your background and would like to invite you to an interview [at our office / via Zoom / via phone] to tell you a little more about the position and get to know you better. [Details about the interview, including anything specific you would like candidates to know about.]

Please let me know which of the following times work for you, and I can send over a confirmation and details:

[Day, Time 1]
[Day, Time 2]
[Day, Time 3]

I look forwards to our meeting.

[Your Name]
[Your Position]
[Your Company]

Note: Email is convenient but not always the best choice. For urgent matters or complex discussions, a phone call is better. Meeting face-to-face helps build relationships and promote meaningful conversations. So, consider the situation and desired outcome before deciding how to communicate.


Q1: How can I distinguish between important and unimportant emails?

A: The answer varies based on your individual goals, priorities, and interests. Before opening an email, ask yourself: Does this email need my immediate attention or action? Does this email align with my current projects or tasks? Does this email provide me with valuable information or opportunities? If you say “yes” to either question, the email is probably important and needs your attention. Otherwise, delete, unsubscribe, or filter it out of your inbox.

Q2: How do I deal with urgent or time-sensitive emails that I receive outside of my scheduled email times?

A: When you receive an email that demands your immediate attention or falls outside your designated email times, you have two choices. First, you can interrupt your schedule and respond right away only if it is genuinely urgent and cannot wait until your next email session. You could send a brief reply, acknowledging the email and informing the sender that you have received their message. You can assure them that you will respond promptly during your working hours.

Q3: How do I avoid email overload when I work with multiple clients, projects, or teams?

A: One way to avoid email overload when you work with multiple stakeholders is to use separate email accounts or aliases for different purposes or roles. For instance, you can create separate email accounts for different purposes, such as personal use, your main business or job, each client or project you’re working on, and so on. This way, you can keep your emails organised and separate from each other, avoiding mixing up or missing important messages. Use tools like Slack, Asana, Trello, or Google Docs as alternatives. These tools let you communicate and collaborate with clients, projects, or teams more efficiently. They help streamline your workflow, track progress, share files and feedback, and minimise the need for lengthy email exchanges.


Managing your inbox is essential in today’s email-driven world.

Setting up filters and folders to organise your emails helps you declutter your inbox, increase productivity, and easily locate specific messages. Unsubscribing to unwanted or irrelevant emails keeps your inbox clean and free from distractions.

Scheduling specific times to check and process your emails, while avoiding constant checking and multitasking, improves focus and productivity. Using the 4 Ds method (delete, delegate, do, defer) helps you efficiently manage each email.

Setting boundaries and expectations with your email communication establishes clarity and reduces stress. Clearly communicate your availability, prefered response time, and prefered mode of contact.

Remember, effective email management is not just about email itself. Consider alternative communication methods like phone calls or face-to-face meetings for urgent matters or complex discussions. Utilise collaboration tools to streamline workflows and reduce the need for lengthy email exchanges.

Apply these tips to gain mastery over your inbox, minimise stress, boost productivity, and improve communication with others.

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