5 simple steps to structure your emails, tasks and agenda – Step 2: your inbox

Have you read the introduction and Step 1? If not, read those first and then come back.

Step 2: Avoid e-mail chaos by smart inbox management


Every week I see so many people with a full e-mail inbox with hardly any subfolders. Don’t feel bad if you are one of them, it is the majority of people. Start with creating a subfolder for each of your roles (see Step 1) and an overall ‘Done’ folder. If you go for the light version, don’t pay attention to the roles. I use numbers to order the roles in usual order of priority. In my professional inbox I don’t have a ‘me’ folder as this is my private email.

Your inbox is not a task list! Many people keep emails in the inbox because that’s their only way of not forgetting things. They will, and they will lose a lot of time too.

How my inbox structure kind of looks like:


But again, it’s perfectly possible you have less roles and hence subfolders. Don’t worry.

If that is all set, use the following set of rules to manage your emails:

  1. PREVENT GETTING EMAILS: For example, limit these short but frequent project-related emails from colleagues by using a messaging system such as WhatsApp or Slack. I strongly recommend the latter. Please: also only ‘reply all’ if needed. Too often the ‘reply all’ is used to show off and feed ego’s in environments poor of trust.
  2. APPLY THE 2 MIN RULE: If you see an e-mail you can answer within 2 min, reply immediately.
  3. AIM FOR AN EMPTY INBOX: Delete unimportant emails and after having answered relevant emails, drag them into the appropriate folders or subfolders. E.g. a sales-related e-mail goes into the ‘sales’ folder. Miscellaneous things go into the ‘Done’ folder. Emails you want to actively follow-up should go to the TODO lists (see further).
  4. CHECK EMAILS ONLY FEW TIMES A DAY: Adjust this to your specific situation. However, my experience learns that you cannot perform and concentrate optimally with your mailbox open. I usually start the day with checking emails. And turn off the beeps/vibrations of your smartphone if you receive email! These turn you nuts. Who invented this?
    • Delegate the task if you can or if it is not your responsibility
    • If the task is yours, assess how urgent it is. Either:
      • Do it immediately if required
      • Plan it immediately if completion is required within a week (see agenda in Step 4)
      • Put it on the appropriate TODO list if not urgent (next week or later)
    • Put it in the appropriate (sub)folder for further reference
    • If really important: put it in your note management system (future blog post).

So, how are things going, what are problems you face, comments/questions you have??? Curious about your comments! 👇👇👇

Still in the race and ready for the next Step? Go to Step 3

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: