Blog Creativity & Creative Business Minimalism & Simple Living

How to Process Your Inbox and Free Up 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. When we fail to keep on top of things, the emails seem to multiply causing further unease. There are a few effective ways to manage and process your inbox to make your life a little easier. If you have one or more inboxes, managing them in a systematic way will support you and your work.

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

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. I’ve turned off all the notifications on my computer and phone to avoid the temptation to check.

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 a few folders: pending and archive. I tend to have one pending file plus one file for each project I’m working on.

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, 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!

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 wise 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. I think this is a brilliant idea!

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.

Further reading

How to set digital boundaries when you’re running a creative business
The benefits of taking a week offline
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 productive day!

Parts of this text originally appeared in Breathe, issue 2.

Previous Post | Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Avatar
    Reply Lazy Daisy Jones 13th January 2017 at 7:52 am

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

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

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

  • Avatar
    Reply Lucy 13th January 2017 at 8:47 am

    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
      Reply Natasha 13th January 2017 at 9:02 am

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

  • Avatar
    Reply fashionforlunch 13th January 2017 at 8:57 am

    Love this! Such great tips Natasha!

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

      Thanks, Kirsty. Have a fabulous Friday!

  • Avatar
    Reply Sue 13th January 2017 at 9:11 am

    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
      Reply Natasha 13th January 2017 at 9:13 am

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

  • Avatar
    Reply Adorngirl 13th January 2017 at 10:15 am

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

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

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

  • Avatar
    Reply Victoria Eales 13th January 2017 at 11:13 am

    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
      Reply Natasha 13th January 2017 at 5:38 pm

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

  • Avatar
    Reply Abi Partridge 13th January 2017 at 5:36 pm

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

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

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

  • Reply January freshness for your creativity, email and home – saturday shares – abi partridge 14th January 2017 at 7:42 am

    […] email inbox? Does that need some attention? Mine did this week. Natasha wrote this useful post on how to process your inbox and free up your […]

  • Avatar
    Reply Elinor Hill aka Beachhutcook 14th January 2017 at 6:49 pm

    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
      Reply Natasha 15th January 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks, Elinor. Sounds good to me!

  • Avatar
    Reply kathryn 16th January 2017 at 4:38 pm

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

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

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

  • Avatar
    Reply Fritha Strickland 20th January 2017 at 2:54 pm

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

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

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

  • Avatar
    Reply Dreamer Achiever 22nd January 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Great tips, thanks for sharing! 🙂

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

      Thanks – you’re welcome!

  • Avatar
    Reply michelleroxwellMichelle 8th March 2017 at 8:38 am

    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
      Reply Natasha 8th March 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks so much. Good luck!

    Leave a Reply