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6 Effective Strategies to Declutter Your Email Inbox

 6 Effective Strategies to Declutter Your Email Inbox. a laptop with images of messages floating, coffee cup, plant, and hands using lqaptop

Do you have hundreds or thousands of unread email messages? Are you constantly searching for information in a message among a sea of unread emails? Or do you feel overwhelmed every time you open your email inbox?  If so, it may be time to declutter your email inbox.

A cluttered inbox can lead to missed deadlines, unnecessary delays, and increased stress. By implementing some simple strategies, you can declutter your email inbox and improve your productivity. In this article, we’ll explore 6 effective strategies to declutter your email inbox.

Why Is Email Decluttering Important?

A cluttered email inbox can hurt your productivity and can cause unnecessary stress. Here are some reasons why decluttering your email inbox is important:

Improved Organization and Efficiency

A cluttered inbox can make it difficult to find important emails when you need them. By decluttering your inbox, you can create a more organized and efficient system for managing your emails. This can save you time in the long run.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

A cluttered inbox can be overwhelming and cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. By decluttering your inbox, you put your email where it belongs. If it’s instructions or documentation, add it to your OneNote or wiki. If it's a task, add it to your task list. If it’s a date-related item, add it to your calendar. We’ll keep exploring this.

Better is Good

If you find yourself procrastinating because you have too many messages or it always seems like it fills up again, remember that better is good and it can even be good enough, particularly if you tend to be an all-or-nothing person. Another way I've heard this is progress over perfection.

6 Effective Strategies to Declutter Your Email Inbox

Now that we understand the importance of decluttering your email inbox, let’s explore some effective strategies to help you achieve a clutter-free inbox.

1. Unsubscribe from Unnecessary Emails

We’ve all subscribed to newsletters, sales, free guides, and memberships. As a result, there’s a constant influx of promotional emails, newsletters, and other messages. Take some time to go through your inbox and unsubscribe from any emails that you no longer want to receive. Once you’ve unsubscribed, search for that sender, select all those messages, and delete them.

2. Create Folders and Tags

Creating folders, labels, and tags helps organize your email messages and make them easier to find. You can create folders based on different categories, such as committees, personnel, regulatory information, and follow-up. You can also use tags to categorize emails within a folder. This will help you quickly locate specific emails and keep your main inbox organized.

I struggle most with emails where I need to follow up with people. I’ve seen co-workers add themselves to the CC: field when they replay and need to follow up. The message appears in their inbox and they move it to a folder they’ve created for follow-up. Then, of course, the goal is to make sure you visit the follow-up folder consistently! 

3. Use Filters and Rules

Most email providers offer the option to create filters and rules to automatically sort incoming emails into specific folders. This can be especially useful for emails that you receive regularly, such as newsletters or listserv messages. By setting up filters and rules, you can keep your main inbox cleaner automatically. Please note that the messages are still there, just not in your main inbox! From my experience, Microsoft’s Office 365/Outlook lets you get granular with your filters and rules. Gmail uses broad categories.

4. Designate where the information should go

The information in an email usually falls in one of these categories: informational (here is the newest legislation that may affect you), promotional (check out our sale), instructional (here’s how to do this), task-oriented (could you update this query), meeting/event-related (it’s time for your quarterly performance review), or transactional (thanks for registering). When you are working through your email, put the information where it belongs. If it’s a task, place it on your task list or flag it as a to-do. If it’s a meeting, add it to your calendar. If it’s documentation, add it to your shared network drive, OneNote, or wherever you keep documentation.

5. Set Aside Time for Email Management

To prevent your inbox from becoming cluttered again, it’s important to set aside time for email management regularly. This could be once a week or once a day, depending on your email volume. Set an appointment on your calendar if necessary. During this time, you can go through your inbox, respond to important emails, follow up on messages that are in your follow-up folder, and delete or designate as necessary.

6. Avoid Email Urgency

When you have email notifications turned on, the sounds and notifications create a slight sense of urgency. Turn these off and intentionally check your email,



A cluttered email inbox can negatively impact your productivity and mental well-being. By implementing these strategies, you can declutter your inbox and create a more organized and efficient system for managing your emails. Remember to regularly set aside time for email management. With a decluttered inbox, you can improve your productivity and reduce email-related stress in your daily life.


Looking for more?

I like to call this Productivity for Real People – it’s for people who don’t have an executive assistant to delegate to. Or for people who are juggling aging parents and children. Or for people who feel like everyone else has it all together. Or for people who find their motivation in last-minute, sometimes-frantic project deadlines. It’s for people who have read all of the productivity books and found them interesting to read and are still searching. It’s for people who are changing their season of life (sending children to school or college, empty nesters, retirees). It's for people who want to start a business but aren't sure how to manage the time commitment.

It's not about overhauling everything about your productivity. It's figuring out what works (because there are things that are working okay for you) and asking if we can make it work a little better for you. it's figuring out what you might be struggling with and applying systems and processes. I've used the very systems that I teach in this program. I used to think "I need a deadline to get motivated (and, wow, I'm so focused when that happens)"! I also used to keep Post-it notes stuck to my monitor as reminders of what I needed to do. Now, I've learned a less stressful way to get stuff done. And I'm so excited to share it with you!

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