I have been flat out lately with various projects and events and I am ashamed to say that my inbox has suffered as a result!

Usually my inbox is used as a to-do list of some sorts.  The rest of my emails are filed or deleted, this has not been happening of late.

So this morning I had a spare hour so I decided it was time to take action and get my inbox back to its former to-do list glory!  Which prompted me to write this post.

I know it can be hard to keep your inbox organised when you are busy, however the best way to be efficient is to have an organised inbox.

So I thought I would share with you some tips on keeping your inbox organised and stay on top of your to-do list at the same time.

Most of this post is in reference to Outlook 2007 as this is the program I use, but most other email programs have similar features.

Rules! Rules! Rules!
I use rules all the time. The best way to use them is for email that you receive all the time but it is not important that you view them right away.  Let’s use Twitter (which I just love by the way!) for example.

Most people receive an email notification from Twitter every time someone follows you or sends you a direct message which can very quickly overwhelm your inbox.  Setting up a rule means that the emails will go to a folder you specify instead of you inbox which can make your life a whole lot easier.

To set up a rule in Outlook, follow these instructions. I have used my Twitter rule again to demonstrate

  1. Select Tools and then Rules and Alerts
  2. Choose New Rule
  3. Select the type of rule it will be e.g. “Move messages from someone to a folder” then hit next.
  4. Select the conditions of the rule e.g. “with specific words in the sender’s address”
  5. Click on the underlined specific words in the tab below and type in the email address (or part of the email address) of the sender e.g. @postmaster.twitter.com
  6. Select what you want to do with the message e.g. “Move it to a specified folder”
  7. Select which folder below, in this case select the Twitter folder
  8. Choose any exceptions to the rule then Next
  9. Finish by naming your rule and then you can also select to run the rule on messages already in your Inbox.
  10. Then finish!

It is that simple, now your emails from Twitter will go directly to your Twitter folder and not bombard your inbox.

File! File! File!
Once you have actioned an email, whether it be responding to the email or completing that task, move it to a relevant folder.  I do this all the time and have folders for each client and project so that I can find the email easily at a later date if needs be.

Flag those emails
Flags are great and can help us forgetful people (I blame the baby brain, which I still have nearly 2 years on!) remember to action tasks. As soon as email comes in that you need to action – flag it! You can put a deadline and/or a reminder so that you will never forget the task again.  This is particularly useful if you are in a deadline driven job.

Categorise everything
This might only be relevant to Outlook 2007, as I know it isn’t available in earlier editions of Outlook. 2007 allows you to categorise your emails (in fact everything from your calendar, tasks and notes) into different types of tasks. I categorise them into calls, events and travel. You can then sort your inbox into the different categories if you decide just to focus tasks in a particularly category…such as phone calls.

Turn off those notifications
Notifications of new emails can be very distracting, whether it be a pop-up or a sound.  The best thing to do to increase productivity is to turn these off so you aren’t distracted every time a new emails comes in.

Clean your inbox regularly
Even if you follow these tips some emails will inevitably fall through the cracks, so try to set aside 10 minutes each week to have a quick clean up.  I find the best time to do this is Monday morning (yes that’s right just to make Monday’s more fun!) so that you start your week on a clean slate.

I hope this gives you some food for thought on how to organise your Inbox, it really will help you become more productive and feel more organised than ever.