Whether for personal or business, having 9,748 unread emails is stress-inducing and not helpful. But keeping your emails organized isn’t always an easy task, especially if you’re a business owner and receive hundreds of emails a day. We have some good news for you, though! Having an organized email inbox is possible! Follow our 5 steps to an organized email inbox below.

Step 1. Stick to a Schedule

As with all new things in life, it takes a while of being diligent for something to become a habit and routine. Unless you’re anxiously awaiting an email from someone, break the habit of reading your emails as soon as they come in. Instead, set 2-4 times each day to check your email (this might vary depending on your job). It’s important to put a limit on how long you check email in each timeslot. Maybe set a 15-minute timer, and when it goes off, finish up the email you were on and move on to your next task of the day. When you’re in one of these scheduled timeslots, use the workflow in step two below.

Step 2. Use a Workflow

Once you’ve established a schedule, it’s time to triage and organize. The first few times you do the workflow, determine which labels and folders make the most sense. Once these are created and established, filing and organizing will be much easier.

  • Delete or file for later using labels. If you get many daily emails, it might make sense to quickly go through your inbox and delete everything you deem “junk” or unwanted. Once that is done, determine and prioritize the emails which need a response. If an email needs kept but doesn’t require a response, file it appropriately.
  • Take action. Determine which emails need attention. If it needs an immediate or timely response, go ahead and write the reply email. If an email contains important information for a project or client, be sure to take appropriate notes and make necessary updates.
  • Outsource. Sometimes you’re included in an email just to be kept in the loop. If this is the case, pull the relevant information and move on. Sometimes an email needs to be forwarded elsewhere. Be sure to include all pertinent information and details to eliminate back and forths between you and the recipient.
  • Revisit. Sometimes, you may not be able to handle all of your emails right away. After all, this is the whole reason for the workflow. For non-urgent emails, file them in a separate folder titled something along the lines of “Revisit” or “Needs Review.” Just make sure this is the first folder you open when it’s time to check and respond to emails.

Step 3. Use Email Templates and Rules

The beauty of modern technology is that practically all email hosts have automations already built-in. An easy way to cut down on time spent in your inbox is to build saved templates for quick and frequent emails. Rules are another great way to organize your inbox. Use rules to automatically perform specific functions on incoming mail. Here are helpful guides to using rules for Outlook and Gmail.

Step 4. Set Healthy Boundaries

As we mentioned in step one, break the habit of reading emails as soon as you get the “You’ve Got Mail” notification. Go one step further and delete your inbox from your phone. If that seems too drastic, stick to your schedule and see how you feel a month or so out. Once you’ve eliminated emails from your phone, establish time boundaries. There are always exceptions to the rules, but keep in mind that emails rarely require an immediate response.

  • Set a cut-off time each day. Maybe it’s when you leave the office. If you work from home, maybe it’s 6:00 pm. Determine what works best for you but be sure to give yourself enough offline time.
  • Don’t check or respond to emails on your days off.
  • If you’re on vacation or have an extended absence, turn on your out-of-office and provide details of when you’ll resume checking email.

Step 5. Outsource Your Email to a Virtual Assistant

Even the most organized people find themselves with a chaotic, unorganized inbox. As a business owner, entrepreneur, leader, or just generally busy person, it can be difficult to find enough time in your schedule to keep your emails organized and under control. Hiring a virtual assistant is an easy and stress-free way to get and stay on track of inbox organization. Outsourcing your inbox doesn’t have to be scary. Set initial time aside with your assistant to explain your inbox and how you would like it organized. Come up with a plan together that will work for both of you. There might be a little bit of a learning curve, but remember, you still have full access to and control of your inbox.

The key to any organization is to create a system that works for you. Some of us are “Inbox 0’s” while others are completely fine with having 9,748 unread emails. Check out this Business Insider article to determine what your email inbox reveals about your personality.

If you’ve read through and think Step Five sounds most appealing, we’d love to chat. We have a team of super organized assistants ready and eager to get your inbox organized!.