Do you think about email and instantly feel overwhelmed? Or avoid it altogether because it gives you anxiety? Is this causing you to miss opportunities and deadlines and even taking a toll on your relationships?
Then you might be surprised by the first tip I share in this episode.
No matter what your email clutter tolerance is, I think you’ll find these 7 tips to organize your email inbox helpful.
- The best way to use folders
- Services that help reduce large quantities of emails
- Three questions to help you process your inbox
- How to use rules to help sort
- Calendar tips to help you get email tasks completed on time
- MIT email study results
And more! Take a listen.
Choose one tip, one action step, to help you organize your email, and schedule it on your calendar for this week.
The key moments in this episode are:
01:45 – Defining Organization,
04:07 – The Wonderful One,
05:48 – Sorting and Using Rules,
08:07 – Purging and Processing Emails,
14:42 – Importance of Using Folders,
15:01 – Reducing Emails with a Service,
16:36 – Recap of the Seven Tips to Organize Email,
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Transcript with time stamps:
This episode is by popular demand. I’ve had so many people ask, “Oh! Can you do an episode about organizing your email?” So that is what we’re talking about today. I’ve put it into seven tips to organize your email and we’ll walk through each one of those. They’re bigger than just a tip, so I crafted a podcast out of it just for you!
Before I start, I do want to say today is the first day, if you’re listening to this live, that Organized Coach Academy begins. I am so proud of the people signed up already and so excited and proud of myself for creating this. I just think it’s going to be amazing. You have about 5 hours if you’re wanting to join. DM me on Instagram.
There are a few spots open still if you want to get in there. We are going to do it. We are going to have fun, and we’re going to organize our businesses, and we’re going to feel way more organized when we finish. Let’s get into the episode, 7 Tips to Organize Your Email. Are you ready to work less, feel more organized and productive,
streamline repetitive tasks, and implement systems that allow your coaching business to run smoothly even without you? If so, you’re in the right place. Welcome to the Organized Coach Podcast, your go-to source for practical tips and solutions. I’m your host, Tracy Hoth, professional organizer, certified life coach, simplifying expert, and most of all, down to earth fellow coach just like you. No matter if you think you’re missing the organizing gene, have ADHD, or just love anything organizing, I’m here to help you become an organized coach with a business that works for you.
Pull up a seat and let’s get started. I want to start by just defining what ‘organized’ means, and I’m sure I’ve said this 100 times, but tip number one is: What does being organized mean? What does having an organized email mean? Being organized… My favorite definition of organized is ‘knowing what you have and being able to find it when you need it’.
In email, you have a search feature. You can find almost anything you need using search. If you have 20,000 emails in your inbox, it doesn’t mean you’re not organized. Clutter tolerance comes into play here. If that doesn’t bother you having 20,000, if it’s not a big deal, if you realize you’re going to waste more time trying to reduce that, if you’re tolerant to that clutter, that’s totally fine.
You might not want to go spend the time on that, and you can still find things when you need them. Now, if it’s a pain point for you, if you want to have a zero inbox, if you are wasting a lot of time searching for things, then you might want to make some changes. There was a study at MIT that analyzed 345 users in 85,000 episodes and discovered that people who did not do any email filing could search and they actually found things just as fast as people that spent the time putting things into folders. I think that’s interesting. I don’t want anybody to get caught up or feel judged or feel like they’re even doing anything wrong or being disorganized by not creating what we think organization might look like within email.
Okay, so that’s tip number one. Organized defined is knowing what you have and being able to find it when you need it. So make a decision, I am not going to worry about it anymore, I’m not going to care. I don’t want to have inbox zero or I’m going to make changes and I’m going to move on because I can find things when I need them. Okay, tip number two: apply the wonderful one. Can you have one email address?
I mean, would it be possible? Can you have all your email in one location? What? Is that be possible? Because remember, the less decisions our brain has to make, the better off we are, the easier it is. So how can you have one email or reduce the number of emails you have right now?
How can you have them all in one location? Is it possible to apply this concept of the wonderful one? For example, I use Apple Mail and that’s where I bring my Gmail and my work email into that. So when I’m on my computer or on my phone, I only have one location that I go to get my email. And I only have two emails, work and personal, and they go into one location, the app that’s on my computer and phone.
Okay, so what is yours? This is your call to action, is just making a decision. Let’s say you have a lot of emails, so how do you go about reducing your email? You can do cold turkey, you can look at it, the one you want to get rid of, see if there’s anybody personally emailing you and then reach out to them and tell them you’ve changed your email. You can set up a rule to do that.
A rule could send a reply to the person that sent you the email, giving your new email address and then eventually you just close that account down. So now, in step three, we’re going to start with my ‘organizing steps’. Notice how we did that. Step one is defining what organizing means. Step two is using the concept of the wonderful one.
In step three, we begin using the ‘organizing steps’. We start with SORT. It’s kind of interesting because when you think about email, it kind of is sorted. It comes into your inbox, it goes to your social folder, your spam or your junk and it has some sort of sorting going on. It’s these messages and they’re being sorted into different places. Now we can add a rule here. This is where we’re going to talk about rules a little bit more.
We can add rules to create the sorting process for us. If we want to search how to set up a rule, we do that search. What I found was we name the rule and then it has an ‘if then’. If it’s from some certain person or if it contains and you put what you want it to contain, then and you can do all sorts of things. I don’t use rules really, but you can move it to a folder, you can make it a certain color, you can make it play a sound, you can have it bounce up and down in your email inbox, you can add a flag or you can have it reply back to it.
If, for example, you have a lot of emails from a membership, those could go into a folder and then you or your assistant could check the folder at certain times of the day and all the emails would already be in there. That is so helpful. You’ve already done the sorting process by setting that rule up. If you receive an email that you don’t need to see, maybe there’s like a receipt you get every month from something. You could have a rule set up on that, that it goes into your monthly receipt, your tax file folder, and it could go in there automatically and you really wouldn’t need to see it and look at it and have to slide it over there.
You’re saving yourself time by setting up these rules which are sorting for you. So step number three is to SORT. That’s the first step of any organizing that you do. It’s already kind of done, but you’re going to use rules to sort further and it’s going to save you time by doing that. Set up those rules, do a search, watch a YouTube video, and figure out how to create rules in your email provider, whatever you’re using.
Step four is the next step in organizing and that’s to PURGE. In this step, you can delete an email, you can delay it, you can delegate it by forwarding it to somebody else, you can put it into a folder, but there’s a lot of things that need action. But the main goal is to get rid of the email, to get it out, to delete it. Just like with paper, you use the same three how questions to process paper. I went over these in the paper organizing episodes.
I’ll link that below. The first question you would ask when you’re processing your email is, how can I get rid of this? How can I get rid of this? Remember, that is your goal. If there’s something in the email that you can add to a calendar appointment, if there’s something in the email that you can put into your idea tracker, because it’s something you kind of want to remember, put it in your idea, tracker the piece of information and then delete the email.
If it’s junk, delete it. If there’s any way you can get rid of it, you do that first. Then if you’re still looking at the email because you couldn’t get rid of it, I want you to ask the question, how can I get this done on time? If there’s an action step needed and it takes less than two minutes, I want you to do it immediately. Maybe it is to RSVP, maybe it’s to forward it to somebody else.
Whatever it is, do that immediately. When you’re processing your inbox, when you’re processing your emails, if you’re still looking at this email because there’s nothing that has to get done on time, I want you to ask yourself, how can I find this when I need it? So that’s where storage comes in. It’s either going to go into a folder or you’re going to transfer that information somewhere else so that you can find it when you need it. I think I missed a step in.
How can I get this done on time? If you can do it in under two minutes, do it in under two minutes. Do it immediately. But if not, you need to have a process set up. So if there’s something in your email that you can’t do, a lot of times we’ll look at it and we’ll be like, oh, I can’t do that right now.
We’ll leave it in our inbox, but we need to have some system set up. Here’s an example of that. Let’s say on Fridays we do kind of a close down hour where we get little stuff done. If there’s something in an email that needs to get done, but it’s going to take longer than two minutes and you can’t do it right now. I want you to put a note in that calendar appointment, process this email or do this task so that you’re not forgetting about doing it, you’re putting it on your calendar.
Whatever you decide is your process, you can leave the email in your inbox. You could put it in an action folder, and then, you know, on Fridays at one, you process the action folder of your email. So that’s an example of a process that you would put in place. So how can I get rid of this? How can I get this done on time?
Do it right then if it’s under two minutes, add it to your calendar task block of time, whatever it is that you have committed to processing these things, getting little tasks done, or hand it off to your VA or whatever it is, and then slide that email into a folder that says action. It’s a combo of putting it on your calendar or knowing when you do those things, and then putting it in a folder that is action needed or Friday’s tasks or something like that. Okay, I hope that’s clear. Step four is to purge it’s, to go through your inbox, to go through your email. Using those questions would be very helpful, and I’ll include those in the show notes.
I have a PDF you can download step number five. So sort was three, purge is four, and then ASSIGN HOMES is number five. You need to have a time on your calendar when you, first of all, go through email and second of all, like we just talked about, when you do the tasks that come in email format. The top tip is to time block a spot on your calendar to do these things. And, by the way, my time block was for making this podcast episode, but because I was talking about email, I had my email open and it was very distracting.
I kept looking, “Oh, a new email. Did I reply to that one?” I had to close it because it was very distracting. Assign homes on your calendar, when you will process email and when you will do tasks that come in the form of an email. Number six, use folders sparingly, but use them. That’s what they’re there for.
Now, I did learn in Gmail that they’re called labels. Your email service might call it something different, but knowing that there’s a folder or it’s labeled and you can find things when you need them, that is the point of folders. Now, there are some that I think you might want. I have a folder for taxes. You could call it just money in general or receipts, but that one folder.
I slide anything related to money and taxes into that folder. So if I get a receipt, an email receipt, I’ll slide it into the folder. If I have a profit and loss statement, I’ll slide it into that folder. So when tax time comes at the end of the year, I have everything I need in that folder. I have one for like if you had a membership, you might have a folder where you would slide action items you need to do for that membership, and maybe you would check it monthly or weekly.
I have one for my website. I have a website folder because every time I ask my website guy, how do I do this, or I ask him a question and he replies to me the next month, I’m like, how do I do that? Again? I always know it’s in my website folder. I just go back to that.
I volunteer and they send me a link to the information that I need, and I have went back to that folder so many times to get that link. That’s a great reason to have a folder, so you can find it when you need it. I just click immediately into the folder and it’s the top email I love. When I purchase a program, I make a name for it so that everything, all correspondence about that is in there. I can find anything I need in that.
The other folder I love is travel. So whenever I travel or I purchase a ticket or make a hotel reservation or rent a car, I put the receipt or the confirmation into my travel folder. And that has been so helpful. I’ve gone back to that folder so many times. So use folders.
Step number seven is to reduce the emails by using a service. Now we should always be reducing emails coming in. We should be unsubscribing every time we process email. You should be unsubscribing because otherwise it comes in so much faster than we can ever keep up with the unsubscribes if we don’t do it regularly. And that’s like one or two every time you check your email but really use a service.
There are three that I would recommend unroll me clean email. I’ve been reading a lot about that, and maelstrom.com M-A-I-L-S-T-R-O-M what these do is they take all your email and they sort it. They can sort it by so many different ways. Emails older than a year, emails larger than a certain size, social notifications, and then emails from dead ends and probably more. But you can get all of those sorted, select all of them, and then delete and unsubscribe from them.
That’s what’s so amazing. Plus it gives you a timeline and a deadline. So if you wanted to pay for a service for a month, you could pay and then that would be your goal. You’d have a deadline and you could get through your emails and really get your email box under control, if that’s a goal. Going back to number one, if that’s your goal, let’s wrap up this episode and review the seven tips to organize your email.
Number one, organize defined is to know what you have and be able to find it when you need it. Make a decision if you want to mess with email or not, because it doesn’t mean that you’re not organized if you don’t have inbox zero. Step number two, apply the wonderful one wherever possible. The action step is to make a decision. Can you reduce your email?
Can you put all email in one location? Step number three, use the organizing step always. The first one is sort the action. Can you set up any rules that will help you sort automatically to save you time? Number four is to purge.
Use the three how questions. The three how can I get rid of this? How can I get this done on time? How can I find this when I need it to process your email? Number five, assign homes on your calendar.
First for your email processing time, and then also for emails that need action. Decide when you’re going to do those. Put them together on a slot on your calendar. Number six folders, decide how you want to use your folder and then obviously you’re going to have to go through those folders. I was just looking at mine, and I’m thinking, “Oh! I got to delete some of these.”
00:17:45 Use folders. And then number seven, reduce emails and use a service if you think it would be helpful. Okay, let me know. What do you think? What action are you going to take?
I can’t wait to hear from you. And until next week, have a great day. Wait. If you’re finding this podcast useful, you must check out the Organized Coach Academy. It’s my course, where I walk you through every step to get your business organized, to get yourself organized, to save money and time, to prepare, to hire someone to do all the things that you want to do in your business with ease.
Check that out at training.simplysquaredaway.com/OCA. Also, I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but I would love it. It’s my way of knowing that you’re enjoying the podcast. If you leave a written review, I have lots of freebies for you.
They’re linked in the show notes. You can find them in my bio on Instagram at @tracyhoth. And until next week, have a beautiful day.