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My Certified Guide: Top 5 Ways to Organize Work Emails


There are a lot of moving parts to my day. I’m a CEO, a consultant, and a mom, among other roles, and I still make time to work out every morning. One of the ways I make it feel like there are enough hours in my day is by organizing my inbox so it doesn’t take over my life. 


What is Email Organization?

Email organization means going through your inbox and prioritizing certain messages while deleting any unnecessary emails. This allows you to clear out clutter, find messages more easily, and respond to emails faster. Practicing proper email organization techniques can boost your workplace productivity and efficiency. Knowing that your email is sorted and organized can also alleviate any workplace stress caused by an overabundance of emails in your inbox. The sheer volume of emails we receive nowadays is overwhelming. According to Adobe’s annual survey, respondents typically spend five hours per day struggling to deal with their work email. Consider what you could achieve if you could reduce your time spent on email.


Different Email Programs & Their Advantages

Tidy email organization is the first step toward effective email management. You must set up a system that will allow you to quickly sort and identify important emails. To organize your inbox, you can use the built-in tools in your email client.


Mail from Apple

At the top of the screen, click the flag icon. For example, you could use green flags for emails that say “not now, but by the end of the day” and blue flags for emails that say “read-only.” These messages will be archived and saved in a special “flagged” area for easy access.


By clicking the blank star to the right of the sender’s name, you can manage emails with “special stars.” Continue to click, and Google will display each of the special stars you’ve assigned to categories.


Here are my top 5 ways I keep my inbox from becoming overwhelming and out of control:


1: Use Labeled Folders for Your Advantage

Save time searching through your inbox for a specific email by placing it in a labeled folder. If an email contains important information that you will need to refer to later, move it to a specific folder to make it easier to find. Go through your inbox and begin organizing emails into folders. One of your folders, for example, could be labeled “Projects.” You can then create subfolders for each project you work on and for which you receive emails.


Depending on your role and needs, you can use folder systems and labels in a variety of ways.
  • Whatever your role, you can benefit from making a folder or label that will serve as a to-do list.
  • If you work in marketing or project management, categorizing emails by the project will help you keep related emails together and find them quickly.
  • If you work in account management or customer service, categorizing emails by the sender can be useful.
The 5-folder method is ideal for those who enjoy making to-do lists. You organize your emails into five folders based on when you need to deal with them:
  1. Inbox- All new emails are delivered to the inbox.
  2. Today – emails that require immediate attention
  3. This week – emails that need to be addressed
  4. This month – Emails that can wait this month
  5. FYI – Things you should remember but don’t have to do anything about
The advantage of this method is that you know exactly what you need to do right now, and you won’t lose track of emails that you need to work on later.

2: Color-Code Each Email Based on Urgency

You can better understand which emails are urgent and which you can scan and respond to later by categorizing them. Some email systems allow you to color-code each message to indicate its importance. You can create your own color-coding system to quickly view messages and determine their urgency level.


3: Convert Emails Into Tasks

You can mark an email as a task in some email software systems. For example, if your boss emails you and asks you to look into new business communication systems for employees to use, you can turn the email into a task with a deadline. This helps you remember to complete the task and gives you a place to refer to the message for more information about the assignment. Some task features also allow you to make notes about the assignment that you can save and review later.


4: Set Time Aside Each Week to Tidy Up

If you receive a large number of emails during the workday, it may take some time to sort through and organize them all. Set aside scheduled time each week to review unread emails and move outstanding messages to their respective folders. Setting aside time for this allows you to clear out your inbox without feeling rushed or behind.


5: Respond ASAP

If you receive an email requesting an answer to a question or a simple response, respond to it as soon as it arrives in your inbox. This allows you to quickly respond to the email, move it to its appropriate folder, or archive it, and move on to your next task. This relieves the stress of knowing that these messages are still in your inbox and need to be responded to.



My top five ways for organizing my inbox are: using labeled folders and/or the five-folder method; color-coding based on urgency; converting emails into tasks; setting time aside for organization each week, and responding to emails ASAP when possible. 



Tell yourself every day that you need to get through all of your emails. Be ruthless during your regularly scheduled daily email time. Like a seasoned ER nurse, triage your messages! Before diving in to respond to an urgent message, flag it and move on. Perhaps an even more important message awaits you on the following page. Quickly scan message titles and sort your emails into a few simple categories (now, today, tomorrow, this week, etc.).
Congratulate yourself once you’ve tamed your inbox. Choose your most important messages and tasks, avoid distractions, and get to work, knowing your time won’t be wasted by taming an unruly inbox. 

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