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Email Organization Tips from a Professional Organizer

Well, friend — we talk a lot here on the Grid + Glam blog about how to be more organized at home… but what about digital organization? It’s no secret that digital disorganization can cause just as much mental anguish as physical chaos. So, I thought it was about time to share my email organization tips, too.

Once you create an inbox filing system, it’s fairly easy to reach and maintain what’s been dubbed “inbox zero” — even if you only check your email once or twice a day. I know, that may sound pretty foreign right now. But trust me, it’s possible! 

How can you achieve this mythical inbox zero? Here are a few of my top email organization tips to get you on your way.

Why it’s time to organize your inbox

We all know that getting organized is important, but WAY too many of us skip the digital side of things. But especially if you’re someone who gets easily stressed or distracted at work, organizing your inbox is crucial.

Did you know that in 2015, it was estimated that the average office worker gets 121 emails a day?! And that was 5 years ago! I can’t imagine what that number must be now.

As a business owner, I know my inbox can get hectic. That’s why I apply the same compulsive organization approach to email as I do to my house. My email philosophy is that only emails that are pending an action should remain in my inbox. All other emails are either deleted or filed. 

Don’t worry — we’ll get you there too.

1. Make an event out of email organization

This part is important. Even for an organization geek like me, there’s nothing overly fun about organizing your inbox. So, I want you to make it fun! 

My first email organization tip is to set aside a good chunk of your time to dedicate solely to this project. Grab a glass of wine, a bag of pretzels, and prepare to hunker down for about two hours.

I want you to treat this organization session the same way you would if you were organizing your closet or pantry. Just because it’s not tangible doesn’t mean it’s not important.

2. Create systems

Your next step is to think about the different folders you’ll need to organize your current emails and then create them. 

For example, you might need a folder for each family member, one of your work emails, another for your blog updates (like the Grid + Glam newsletter!), another for old love letters from your ex-boyfriend… you get the idea.

3. Sort and purge

Yeah, you knew this step was coming! If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you know that I’m always going to tell you to purge. 

I like to sort my inbox by sender before purging. That way I can see exactly who my emails are from and easily delete whole chunks of spam, solicitations, and outdated messages at once. Do you really need that Bath & Body Works coupon from 3 months ago? Probably not.

Trust me on this one — deleting is your best friend, always. It’s the quickest and most efficient way to not just reach but maintain inbox zero.

4. File everything away

This next step is probably the most time consuming: filing away all the emails you’re left with. Now is the time to decide what’s going to be deleted, filed, or kept in your inbox as a pending task.

My top email organization tip? Don’t overthink it. Chances are, if you already have 8,000 emails in your inbox, you’re not going to miss the one you might accidentally delete. Unless it’s something important — like an unpaid invoice, a tax bill, or something else you may need to reference down the road — you can almost always bin it. 

Also, don’t stress if you don’t finish this entire project in one sitting. If it takes you longer than a couple of hours to go through steps 1-3, step away from the computer and come back another time — but not before setting aside another hour or two to purge and file some more. 

I know it can feel tedious right now, but remember that you’re saving yourself hours down the road.

5. Maintain that inbox zero

Once you have cleaned out your inbox, the key is maintenance. Pick a couple of times every single day that you’re going to check your inbox religiously — maybe once in the morning and once in the afternoon. During those designated times, read every single email and do one of three things with them:

  1. Delete them
  2. File them away (if really necessary)
  3. Keep them in your inbox as pending

That way, the only emails left in your inbox are the ones you need to take action on. It can make creating your to-do list so much easier.

Also, do yourself a favor and immediately unsubscribe from any emails you receive from a list that you no longer want to be on. It seems annoying now, but it’s going to save you SO much time from just deleting them as they come in.

Enjoy your tidy inbox, thanks to these email organization tips

Is email organization the sexiest thing in the world? Nope. It’s not even the sexiest thing in the organizing world. But I can guarantee that you’ll feel lighter and more productive once you live the inbox zero lifestyle.

I believe in you, friend! 

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