How to Organize Email: Best Tips for Your Inbox

How to Organize Email: Best Tips for Your Inbox
Vitalii Poddubnyi Vitalii Poddubnyi 16 february 2024, 14:03 68
For beginners

Organizing your email inbox is an essential workplace skill. It helps you communicate timely and effectively with clients, colleagues, and other professional contacts. Knowing how to organize emails gives you a competitive edge, and this article will show you how to imbibe this skill. We’ll provide some tips and talk about organizing your email inbox.

What makes email management essential?

Email is the world’s biggest online communication medium, with over 4 billion active users. It’s the primary medium companies use for communicating. Effective email management helps you focus on critical tasks and avoid missing vital information. It boosts your workplace productivity and enables you to stand out from others.

Email organization also reduces the stress incurred from your work. It’s easier to work when you have a well-organized inbox and can easily access any relevant information you want.

Inbox Organization Tips

Below, we’ll discuss useful tips for organizing emails to improve productivity. These tips include:

Unsubscribe from unnecessary mailing lists

The first step of decluttering your inbox is to get rid of messages from unwanted sources. Almost everyone has emails piling up in their inbox from sources they don’t interact with. It could be a newsletter you once subscribed to but have since lost interest in or a brand you once patronized. It’s better to unsubscribe from these sources than let their emails keep cluttering your inbox.

Mailing list owners usually have an unsubscribe link at the bottom of their messages. You can click this link to unsubscribe from future emails from the specific sender. If the link is missing, or you keep receiving emails afterwards, the sender is violating your privacy rights, so don’t hesitate to report them to your email provider.

If you signed up for too many unwanted newsletters, it can be difficult to unsubscribe from each one manually. In that case, you can use a free tool like Unroll.me to mass unsubscribe from multiple emails.

Star or Flag Important Messages

Email providers like Gmail and Yahoo Mail allow users to “star” or “flag” specific emails, marking them as important. It's a trivial yet effective way to highlight emails you plan to revisit.

On Gmail, every email has a star next to it. This star is initially blank and matches the background color.

When you click on the star, it turns yellow and makes the email stand out from the rest.

The yellow star allows you to visually identify important emails. Besides, you can also access all of the starred emails in a dedicated “Starred” folder.

Other email clients use flags instead of stars, but these two serve the same purpose.

Create to-do lists from your messages

If you receive messages requiring you to perform a specific action, you can create to-do lists out of those messages to ensure you remember to follow up. With a to-do list, you can always see how many tasks you have and be reminded about completing them.

Gmail is integrated with the Tasks app. This integration allows you to automatically convert specific emails into tasks. Other email providers offer similar integrations for converting messages directly into tasks.

With these integrations, you can seamlessly create tasks out of your emails and get reminders. This action represents one of the best ways to organize emails.

Create custom filters and rules

Email providers allow you to create custom filters and rules for your inbox. These rules help you retain complete control over your message arrangements. Examples of rules you can create include;

  • Automatically starring a message from a specific email address, e.g., your company’s chief executive.
  • Automatically categorizing messages from a specific address under a chosen label.
  • Blocking specific addresses.
  • Blocking or starring messages containing specific words.

There are endless possibilities for creating custom filters to organize your inbox and ensure your emails are arranged most conveniently. Custom rules are a critical part of knowing how to organize emails.

Create email templates

If you often send emails containing similar content, you can create templates and reuse them. Whenever it’s time to send a typical message, you’ll simply choose the template instead of typing all over again.

For instance, you can create the template below for inquiries you cannot answer immediately:

Hi [Name]

Thank you for inquiring about our services

I want to let you know that I've received your inquiry and will get back to you as soon as possible with an answer.

If you have any more inquiries in the meantime, please let me know.

Cheers,

[Your Name]

The above is a good example of an email template tailored for a particular situation (responding to inquiries). You can create templates for many different scenarios and reuse them when needed. A template saves you the stress of typing the same words over and over again and wasting unnecessary time.

Use separate mailboxes for personal and work emails

Separating your personal and corporate email addresses can’t be emphasized enough. You should have one address dedicated to work activities and another for personal use. Mixing both can cause confusion and disrupt both parts of your life.

Personal mailboxes often contain sensitive information that you don't want to be potentially exposed to colleagues. Similarly, work emails can include confidential data that shouldn't be exposed to outsiders. Separating personal and work emails reduces the chances of data leaks. In some industries, e.g., banking, mixing personal and professional emails can have serious legal consequences.

It’s generally overwhelming to juggle personal and professional affairs in the same email address. You can easily forget activities from both sides and reduce your overall priority. Have separate addresses to prioritize each one correctly and ensure you don’t fall behind in your corporate communication.

Archive emails when needed

Archiving an email means moving it from your main inbox to a separate folder where you can easily access it. It’s a simple way to separate ongoing conversations from those you don’t need at the moment.

For example, your boss might send you an email to perform a certain task. After completing the task, you don’t want to delete the message entirely; instead, you can put it in your archive folder. Archiving removes the email from your primary inbox, reducing clutter, but still keeps the message accessible.

Archiving in Gmail is as simple as opening the email and clicking the archive button (a box with a downward error) at the top menu. This button removes the email from your main inbox, but you can still find it when you click the “All Mail” folder.

The archive button

Archiving works similarly on other mailbox providers like Outlook, Yahoo Mail, AOL, Fastmail, etc.

Clean your inbox frequently

You should clean your inbox regularly, i.e., delete unwanted messages and organize important correspondence. You always have a few emails that have already fulfilled their purpose or unwanted messages from different addresses. The proper practice is to dedicate time to clearing these emails from your inbox on a regular basis, keeping your mailbox uncluttered.

It’s best to clean your inbox once a week at specific times; you’ll select the unwanted messages and move them to the trash. Weekly cleanups prevent your inbox from getting cluttered to the point of frustration. After cleaning up your inbox, you can organize the remaining messages into specific folders and labels to reduce the chances of future clutter.

Use labels and folders

Labels and folders are two valuable tools email providers offer for organizing emails.

  • A folder is a virtual location for keeping emails.
  • A label is a tag you add to an email.

Moving an email to a folder usually removes it from the main inbox. In contrast, you can assign a label to an email without removing it from the inbox.

You use folders to store emails separately. This way, you easily know where to find a specific email when needed. Labels offer a more flexible way of organizing emails, because an email can be assigned multiple labels at a time. Combine both ways to create a setup that fits your needs the most.

Let’s look at how to organize emails with various providers, including Gmail, Outlook, iCloud Mail, and Yahoo Mail.

Organizing emails on Gmail

Labeling

Here’s how to create a label on Gmail:

1. Open Gmail and sign in.

2. Scroll down on the left menu and click More.

3. Tap Create New Label and input the name.

4. Click Create.

After creating a label, here’s how to apply it to a message:

1. Open Gmail.

2. Select the messages you want to label.

3. Click Labels at the top menu.

4. Select the label to apply to the emails.

Rule filtering

Gmail makes it easy to create custom rules to filter emails. Follow these steps:

1. Open Gmail.

2. Click the Show Search Options icon in the search box at the top menu.

The Show Search Options icon

3. In the new screen, choose the various options for the new custom rule.

4. Click Create filter.

5. Choose the action for the new filter, e.g., “Star it,” “Mark as read,” “Delete it”, etc.

The possible actions for a custom filter

6. Click Create Filter again to confirm your action.

With the above steps, any incoming message that matches your custom filter will automatically face the specified action. For instance, you can automatically star every message coming from a specific colleague.

Starring

You can manually star any email by clicking the Star button next to it on the homepage.

Archiving

You can archive any Gmail message by opening it and clicking the Archive button at the top.

Organizing emails in Outlook

Labeling

Outlook uses Categories instead of Labels, but they serve the same purpose. Follow these steps to create a new category in Outlook

1. Open your Category List.

2. Click Create Category.

3. Type the name for your new category.

4. Press Enter.

Here’s how to apply a category tag to an email:

1. Select the email or emails you want to categorize.

2. Select Categorize from the top menu.

3. Search for or select the category you want to apply.

Rule filtering

Outlook allows you to move, flag, and respond to messages automatically with custom rules. You can create a rule directly from an email you’ve already received.

1. Right-click an email in your Outlook inbox and select Rules > Create Rule.

Source: Microsoft

2. Choose the rule conditions in the dialog box and click OK.

Source: Microsoft

3. Choose the action to take in the Do the following section.

4. Click OK again to save your rule.

Starring/flagging

Outlook doesn’t have a Star option, but there’s a flag feature that serves a similar purpose.

Every message has a flag icon hovering over it on the right side. Simply click the icon to flag the message and click again to unflag it.

Source: Microsoft

Archiving

When you open an email on Outlook, you’ll always see an Archive button at the top menu.

Press this button to archive the email, i.e., move it to a designated “Archived” folder. You can open this folder anytime to see all your archived emails.

Organizing emails in Yahoo Mail

Labeling

Yahoo Mail doesn’t offer labels. Instead, it lets users create folders to store messages. Follow these steps to create a folder:

1. Navigate to the left sidebar.

2. Click New Folder at the bottom of the left sidebar.

3. Enter the name of your new folder.

4. Click the Save button.

After creating a new folder, you can simply drag and drop emails into it when required.

Filtering

Yahoo Mail makes it easy to create custom filters to organize your inbox. Follow these steps:

1. At the top menu, click on the Settings icon > More Settings.

2. Click Filters.

3. Click Add New Filters.

4. Enter the filter name and choose the custom rules for the filter.

5. Click Save.

Starring

Yahoo Mail functions exactly like Gmail in this criterion. There’s a Star icon next to each email on the homepage; click on this icon to star or unstar a message.

Archiving

Here’s how to archive an email on Yahoo Mail:

1. Click on the message you want to archive.

2. Tap the Archive icon at the top menu.

Organizing emails on iCloud Mail

Labeling

iCloud Mail doesn’t let users label emails. But you can create a folder to serve the same purpose. Follow these steps:

1. Open iCloud Mail.

2. Click the plus (+) button next to Folders in the Mailboxes list.

3. Type a name and press Enter.

Here’s how to move an email to a specific folder:

1. Select the email(s) you want to move.

2. If you select just one email, Click the Folder icon, choose a folder, and click Move.

3. If you select multiple emails, click Move, choose a folder, and click Move again to confirm your action.

Filtering

iCloud Mail allows you to create custom rules to filter your inbox. Follow these steps:

1. Click the settings icon at the top of the Mailboxes list and choose Settings.

2. Tap Rules and click the plus (+) button in the top-right corner.

3. Type a name for the new rule.

4. Below Message, use the pop-up menu and text field to specify the filtering conditions.

5. Below Action, choose the action that occurs when the filtering conditions are met.

6. Click Add.

iCloud Mail permits users to create up to 500 custom rules.

Starring

iCloud Mail lets you mark a specific address as “VIP.” Afterwards, every message from that address will have a star next to the sender’s name.

1. Open an email from the address you want to mark as VIP.

2. Click the sender's name or address in the email header and turn on VIP.

Archiving

iCloud Mail lets you archive emails, moving them to a separate “Archived” folder.

1. Select the email you want to archive.

2. Click the three-dotted menu (...) on the top-right corner and click Archive Message.

To archive multiple emails simultaneously:

1. Select the emails.

2. Click Move, click Archive, and click Move again to confirm your action.

Conclusion

Knowing how to organize emails is an important skill that will help you organize your workflow. We've explained how to organize your email effectively on different email services. Follow our tips, and you’ll always keep up a neat email inbox you’ll enjoy using.

FAQs

What’s most important for organizing emails?

Categorize your emails to make them easy to sift through. Create custom rules to sort, star or archive specific messages automatically. Unsubscribe from the emails you rarely read and clean your inbox regularly to avoid unnecessary messages taking up valuable space.

How do I organize corporate emails?

Start with separating your work correspondence from personal emails. Use folders, labels, and tags to sort incoming emails into different categories. You can do that manually or create custom rules to sort emails automatically, e.g., emails from your boss automatically go to the “Very Important” folder.

How do I organize personal emails?

Organizing personal emails doesn’t differ much from organizing work emails. Use folders, labels, and tags to sort your emails, either manually or automatically. Unsubscribe from and delete messages from unwanted senders.

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