Managing My Inbox Better

I used to leverage Outlook rules to properly sort and file my email – before I read it. Unfortunately, this resulted in my inbox being a cluster of folders with emails in a dizzying array of completeness.  I’ve recently resigned myself to not reducing the inbox influx anytime soon, so now I’m working on adjusting my habits to better manage correspondence.

First things – first.  Abolishing the Outlook rules that move emails based on the sender.  If I need to keep something from someone I will file it myself, not let Outlook over store a bunch of irrelevant missives so I lose the important ones.  I want to be managing to 1 inbox, not several.

Inbox Zero sounds like a great goal, but it’s also so far away from my 3,000 item inbox that I’m going to start with an intermediate goal of a diminishing inbox.

To Do Items

I have a ticket system for managing development and systems, which helps me manage the “to do” items.  I practice the 5-minute rule as much as possible, if an email can be addressed immediately I don’t let it go by the wayside.

Review/Reflection Items

I’m trying to determine an appropriate leeway for an item to sit in my inbox, while I work towards an opportunity to review a message at a later time.  If the task of reviewing will take >1 hour, I convert it to a ticket right away and remove it from my inbox.  This allows for better long range planning.

If the task of reviewing will take >1 hour, I convert it to a ticket right away and remove it from my inbox.  This allows for better long range planning.  If it can be reviewed in under an hour, I’m letting it sit in my inbox for about a week while I weigh it against my other priorities.  If I don’t get to it, then it gets deleted or filed (if it’s important info to have retrospectively).


For products that I have expressed an interest in, by downloading a free tool or attending a webinar that I know is sharing my information, I have a folder to store these emails.  This folder is helpful when my forgetful nature has me reeling trying to remember the name of someone or some business that might be helpful down the road.

Cold Calls

I hate these.  I spend enough time curating the information that I’m looking to learn that I come across a lot of new technologies and vendor relationships without having some barge into my inbox.  I pledge to delete voicemails faster and get more senders classified as junk.

People I Do Like

I’m bad at getting back to people, even the vendors I do enjoy working with.  (sorry Debbie!) Since I carry my laptop to just about every meeting I go to, I’m spending the wasted time between my arrival and the start of the meeting catching up on correspondence (2-4 minute emails, ftw) if there aren’t any other needed conversations in the room.

Success So Far

I have 3(!) emails sitting in my inbox from Monday through Wednesday of this week.  I’ve been working on retroactively cleaning up the last ~month in my inbox, but by contrast, last week still has 10 emails in it.  The week previous, 16. (It goes downhill from there.)