5 Fast Tips to clear your Inbox

If you've ever been away from the office for a couple of days, or even left your desk to go to a meeting for a few hours - you know what it's like to return to an email inbox that is overflowing. Daunting!

I suspect that very few of us actually have "answer emails" in our job description but it is this, sometimes overwhelming, quantity of correspondence that can dictate our days (and nights!) and get in the way of us doing our jobs.

How much more productive it is (not to mention nicer) to come back to the office after a couple of days or a long meeting and talk to our colleagues or team about what has occurred - rather than rush straight back to the computer, dreading the number of unread emails that are likely to be there.

Unfortunately the reality is that our managers, teams, colleagues and our customers, do communicate important information to us via email - so a check is necessary to make sure we don't miss something important.

Here's 5 Fast Tip to clear your inbox when the bold number in the brackets (unread mail) is out of control:

1. Sort by name - don't just start reading and replying to the last email that came in. You could miss something really important. Sort by name - and review in the order that is most urgent - your manager, your customers, a key supplier or a colleague who is working on something important with you. Check these emails first.

2. Sort by subject - check for any emails that start with 'Urgent" then by subject areas that are important to your job. You'll know what they are.

3. Delete multiple copies of the same email - if you have been away from the email for a while - chances are that there has been a whole email conversation going on under the same email. Delete all the earlier versions and then read back through the last version. It's likely the issue has been resolved before you even get to read it. If you read the emails in the order they came in - you might very well respond to something that has already been sorted out.

4. Delete (or move) all your newsletters and other 'regular' emails. Facebook updates, Linkedin conversations, blogs and newsletters all create 'noise' in your inbox that can be distracting. If you are truly busy you probably don't have the time for these - so get rid of them - or move them to a 'read later' folder that you can go back to when you have time.

5. Review - is there something else you should be doing? Someone you should be talking to? Or are the emails that are left the most important thing you need to do now? If the answer is yes - you can get on with answering, actioning or filing the emails that are left. Otherwise, shut down your email (or at least turn off the alert that tells you every time something comes into your inbox) and get on with your job. IT malfunction aside - they will still be there when you get back to them (Radical approach I know - but it works if you actually want to get some stuff done!)

Must go, I have 111 emails I need to deal with (I knew they weren't urgent so I chose to write this blog first...)

Thanks for the chat!

- Karen

5 Fast Tips to be 'seen' and raise your career visibility http://ow.ly/9KXjF


  1. Karen, Great post thanks. What about creating rules for your emails and folders?

    All of my linkedin emails for example automatically go to the Linkedin folder. Create a rule based on the email address and send them on over.

    Great for things like newsletters etc.

    *Goes back to sorting the other 120 emails from this morning.

  2. I have different e mail addresses. For example all linkedIn, face book, automatic alerts and most newsletters go to an e mail address created just for that purpose - and my phone doesn't check that e mail so I don't get overwhelmed when I am out. Also, If I didn't get to them in a day or so, I can sort by that receiving e mail and delete the whole bunch in one go - knowing it's all old news!

    1. Great idea Susanne. It's all too easy to treat every email with equal importance - sorting them through the email you use is very clever. If you don't have or want separate addresses then folders could work also - Karen

  3. I am a slave to email and have a habit of always responding to my latest email first. My inbox is pretty much my “to do” list and of course, I can never get to the end of it as the emails just keep on coming...

    I have just unsubscribed to load of newsletters that I found I'd never get around to reading to keep my emails down and a good practice is to only check emails at set times during the day, e.g.: a block of time in the morning and again in the afternoon. Otherwise your day is totally sucked up by emails!

    1. Melissa
      Unsubscribing to things you don't need or distract you is a good idea (not Career Chick Chat of course ☺).
      Have you tried setting up folders and moving non-urgent emails out of your inbox?
      It helps me not be distracted by them

  4. I just sorted mine by who it was from after reading this and cleaned out half of my 700 emails. Thank you! -Craig Booker aka @mentorfreak

  5. Gmail doesn't let you sort your inbox like Outlook did.. I miss that.