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How to Process Your Inbox and Unlock More Time

13th January 2017

How to Process Your Inbox and Free Up More Time | (Photo of a desk)

Simplify your inbox and simplify your life

Despite the amazing benefits of email, addressing the inbox can feel like a never-ending task. Multiple unanswered emails can make us feel overwhelmed, especially when we have important deadlines to meet.

There are a few effective ways to manage and process your inbox to make your life and work a little easier. If you have one or more inboxes, managing them in a systematic way, will support you and your work. Here’s one example you could try.

How to process your inbox

Schedule times to process your inbox

Plan regular times to tackle your inbox and stick to them. This could be as little as once a day or as often as every hour. Processing emails in batches is super-efficient and you may even find you enjoy the process a little more! It’s wise to keep your email accounts closed while you’re working on other things to avoid distraction.

Process and clear your inbox

View the inbox as simply a holding area for the emails you haven’t read. Once they have been processed, they can be deleted or filed. To do this you may wish to create some folders, for example, pending and archive. I have one pending file plus one file for each project I’m working on. Do what works best for you.

Emails can be processed as follows

1. Forward, delete or junk

Many emails can be deleted, marked as junk/spam or forwarded to the person or people they apply to. If you receive a lot of unnecessary emails or are copied into conversations that don’t apply to you, then move swiftly through these actions, deleting or filing each email as you work your way down the list. This is my favourite action because it removes a lot of emails at once.

2. Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe!

Consider every notification, invitation, newsletter etc. that arrives in your inbox and decide if it adds value to your life. If it doesn’t, simply take a moment to unsubscribe from the mailing list. It’s worth taking the time to do this – your future self will thank you for it!

3. Short response

Many emails only require a short response, these can be immediately addressed. Once complete the email can be deleted or filed. If you receive numerous emails requiring a similar reply, it’s helpful to create some draft response templates. This will save time and enable you to quickly get to whatever you’d rather be doing!

4. Long response

A few emails will require a longer response or further information will need to be sought before a reply can be written. These emails can be moved to the pending folder for later attention. I advise scheduling a time to routinely check this folder. Once an email has been processed it can be deleted or filed.

And finally, it’s not only efficient but also kinder to keep your emails short. We’re all juggling a lot of stuff so being clear and concise will help the person receiving it and, in many cases, it will stop you receiving a lengthy reply in return! I’ve recently read that some people even write ‘no need to reply’ when they send an email that doesn’t require a response.

Processing my inboxes in this way means I don’t dip in and out throughout the day. This helps me to focus on one task at a time which is a more efficient way of working. Please feel free to try any of the ideas and as with everything I share here, do whatever works best for you.

Further reading

How to set digital boundaries when you’re running a creative business
How to organise your schedule, surroundings and digital life
Simple digital habits that support my life and work

Thank you, as always, for stopping by. I hope you have a wonderful day. Until next time, I’ll see you over on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Parts of this text were originally published in issue two of Breathe magazine.

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  1. Lazy Daisy Jones 13th January 2017 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Some wonderful ideas in this post, thank you for sharing! X

    • Natasha 13th January 2017 at 7:53 am - Reply

      You’re welcome, Ashley. Have a great day!

  2. Lucy 13th January 2017 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Great ideas here. I have become a lot more ‘unsubscribe’ these days and it makes my inbox much easier to deal with. Lovely post and gorgeous pics as ever! X

    • Natasha 13th January 2017 at 9:02 am - Reply

      Thanks so much, Lucy. Have a great Friday and weekend!

  3. fashionforlunch 13th January 2017 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Love this! Such great tips Natasha!

    • Natasha 13th January 2017 at 9:02 am - Reply

      Thanks, Kirsty. Have a fabulous Friday!

  4. Sue 13th January 2017 at 9:11 am - Reply

    I use a similar technique, but without all the folders… I don’t archive them either I just leave them if it’s something I’m working on!

    • Natasha 13th January 2017 at 9:13 am - Reply

      It’s so much easier, isn’t it? Have a great day, Sue!

  5. Adorngirl 13th January 2017 at 10:15 am - Reply

    There are some things I really didn’t think of what I definitely need to implement especially the pending folder!

    • Natasha 13th January 2017 at 10:22 am - Reply

      The pending folder certainly helps me. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

  6. Victoria Eales 13th January 2017 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Such a helpful post, especially as I’m yet to get back into the swing of things since Christmas. Next week it’s all go so this tips are very timely to help me get started.

    Have a great weekend,

    Victoria x

    • Natasha 13th January 2017 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much, Victoria. I’m pleased you found the post useful. Have a gorgeous weekend!

  7. Abi Partridge 13th January 2017 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Useful post Natasha, I’ve been using to unsubscribe from emails this week!

    • Natasha 13th January 2017 at 5:39 pm - Reply

      I’ll have to check out, thanks! I hope you have a fun weekend!

  8. Elinor Hill aka Beachhutcook 14th January 2017 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    I’m with you on the unsubscribe, unsubscribe! I’ve been working my way through these since the beginning of the year and it feels great. I don’t miss them one little bit.

    • Natasha 15th January 2017 at 2:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Elinor. Sounds good to me!

  9. kathryn 16th January 2017 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    The ‘no need to respond’ idea is such a good idea! xx

    • Natasha 16th January 2017 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      It’s great, isn’t it? I hope you’re having a lovely day.

  10. Fritha Strickland 20th January 2017 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    I really really need to follow these ideas! I fell like it would declutter my brain as well as my inbox! X

    • Natasha 23rd January 2017 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      So true. I hope you manage to find some calm!

  11. Dreamer Achiever 22nd January 2017 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Great tips, thanks for sharing! :)

    • Natasha 23rd January 2017 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks – you’re welcome!

  12. Michelle 8th March 2017 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Great ideas here, I like the ‘no need to reply’ ! Currently have thousands of emails in my inbox, need to start implementing your tips! :)

    • Natasha 8th March 2017 at 1:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much. Good luck!

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