25 Email Management Tips To Claim Back Your Time

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Zoe Ashbridge
Zoe Ashbridge


Approximately 333.2 billion emails were sent in 2022 — and every single one demands time. Every time you head over to your inbox, it impacts your productivity and takes you out of a deep focus.

person using email management tips to clear his inbox at a kitchen table

To help you get your concentration and productivity back, we're sharing email management tips and tricks to keep you focused.

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Read on to learn how to control your inbox instead of having it run your life. You'll also learn exactly how to implement these simple email management tips. Let's dive in.

1. Shut off your notifications.

It's no wonder that emails are causing productivity issues in the workplace.

63% of us are checking our emails multiple times a day, with 19% of workers admitting to checking emails immediately when they arrive.

No doubt checking email this frequently will wreak havoc on productivity. Each time you check your email you turn away from your deliverable in order to tackle an ever-growing problem.

You won't win when you respond (or even pay attention) to every email that crosses your line of sight.

It's even easier to get distracted when little notifications pop up in the corner of your screen, or you hear a little ding every time you get an email.

So, turn off notifications. It puts you back in control of when your inbox gets attention, helps you stay on track, and will allow you to find the discipline to check email only when needed.

how often do you check your personal email? survey responses

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2. Work offline.

Working offline means that your email isn't constantly sending or receiving messages.

Instead of being burdened with notifications or accidentally opening the email panel to a hundred to-dos, you can work offline and receive emails exactly when you want to.

The video below shows you how to do it. Instead of allowing emails to pour in as they arrive, you can choose when you receive emails from the server.

3. Schedule specific times during the day to attend to email.

There's actually science behind the connection between stress and emails.

Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth W. Dunn ran an experiment to show the relationship. They found that participants who checked their emails just three times per day experienced lower daily stress.

Instead of checking emails on a regular basis, try to incorporate a schedule where you can limit those checks to three times per day.

Maybe your new goal will be to check emails first thing in the morning, again after lunch, and a final check before logging off for the day.

Sarah Green Carmichael, a former executive editor at the Harvard Business Review, says that this tip didn't work for her. She recalls one email check-in session would just bleed into the next one.

To help solve this problem, set a limit on this allotted time in order to avoid email taking over your day. Only allow yourself an hour or so to take care of your most pressing messages.

That's where prioritization comes in.

4. Prioritize.

Not all email is created equal. The marketing emails crowding your inbox aren't as pressing as customer inquiries or meeting invites.

Sort and identify the emails that really need attention. Look for emails that are promotional and of no use to you and delete them. Archive emails that don't need a response, or that you can get back to later.

Now, look around: what needs attention?

Every time you need help determining what to prioritize, remind yourself about the Eisenhower Matrix. This matrix is split into four quadrants:

  • Do.
  • Schedule.
  • Delegate.
  • Don't do (in email, delete).

Deciding where your email sits in this quadrant can help you determine exactly what to do with it.

Image shows four colored quadrants labeled with: do first, schedule, delegate and don't do

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5. Consider the two-minute rule.

The "Two Minute Rule" has a simple premise.

If you can read and respond to an email in two minutes, why not take care of it now? It'll save you hassle in the long run.

Quick wins can help you feel in control, so don't wait when you don't have to.

Sarah Jackson tried the two-minute rule and reported feeling accomplished and in control. Sounds good, right?

6. Delegate.

Not every email that lands in your inbox requires you to take action.

The two-minute rule should help you shift emails out of your inbox and over to someone else.

If the email isn't yours to action or if you're in an email with other personnel, forward it along to the person who can help.

Working this way with emails means:

  • You're less overwhelmed with your inbox.
  • The person who actually needs the email has it.
  • A project can keep moving instead of being held up in your inbox.

Sometimes emails sent to multiple recipients need to be pushed to one person who will take accountability for it.

7. Delay delivery.

Email scheduling is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

If an email arrives in your inbox and you respond immediately, it's almost certain the person who sent it is also active in their emails.

You're more likely to get another immediate response and that's not always a good thing.

If the conversation is urgent, email isn't the best place for it anyway. So, delay your emails.

Here's how to delay emails on Outlook and on Gmail.

8. Use folders.

Folders are key to inbox management.

How you choose to organize your emails will depend on what you do and how you think, but I don't recommend organizing emails by date.

Instead, try to separate by client or project.

Folders help to organize emails by topic or importance level. This will help keep related messages together and make them easier to find when needed.

As soon as an email has been responded to, move it to its designated folder.

Remember: You don't need all your old emails in your inbox. That's what the search function is for.

9. Search.

Make friends with the search bar in your email program to quickly locate emails without having to scroll through your entire inbox.

Doing this means you can get comfortable filing emails.

You can browse by sender or recipient or even filter by emails with attachments.

10. Archive projects and years.

Once you're comfortable with your folders and search, you can start to archive old emails that you're unlikely to need.

Instead of deleting emails, create a folder to archive emails. You can archive a year of projects into a one-year folder, or move completed projects to a "completed" folder.

You can still get to your emails if an issue arises a year later, but you don't have messages cluttering up your inbox (and your mind).

11. Read top-down.

If you're involved in an email chain you might find that several emails have landed in your inbox on the same subject.

Read the email chain from the top down, so you're reading the latest email first.

The latest email might supersede all that was said below it, meaning you can ignore anything before and reply only to the latest email.

Working this way can save you so much time.

12. Unsubscribe.

Although spam emails are on the decline, they still make up nearly 50% of emails that land in our inboxes.

Thank goodness you can unsubscribe.

It can feel that emails are coming into our inboxes faster than we can unsubscribe. But don't let this deter you.

Take a quick 20 minutes to unsubscribe from all those emails you prefer not to receive.

This will tidy up your email inbox and you'll thank yourself for days after.

13. Create an email for marketing.

Similarly to the unsubscribe email management tip, what you can also do is create a separate email account that you hand out to marketers.

Morey Haber, CTO and CISO at BeyondTrust, recommends that everyone has 4 emails with different purposes.

An email for:

  • Sensitive data (eg banking).
  • Personal correspondence (eg family and friends).
  • Junk and shopping (marketing).
  • Work.

Try to keep your work email separate from your marketing emails.

You can have all the marketing emails go to one place. When you want, you can scan through and do a mass delete.

Your marketing inbox will likely be the least opened inbox with the most amount of emails, but going back to the Eisenhower Matrix, they're neither important nor urgent.

14. Manage email notifications.

Sometimes the emails you receive come from third-party tools like Asana or Slack.

If you're using third-party tools to manage your work, you might not need an email reminder about what's in the app.

Instead of giving these tools a free pass to your inbox, manage your settings within the tool. You can turn off email notifications that you don't find useful.

Asana's email notifications allow you to customize the emails you receive to your inbox.

How you set up your email notifications will depend on how you like to work.

In the screenshot above, you can see the control that Asana provides. You can opt out of daily summaries if it's not useful, but opt in for mentions.

15. Flag messages.

Use flags to keep track of important emails so they don't get lost in the shuffle of new messages.

By hitting "flag," you're marking an email as a "to-do." If you're using Outlook, you'll then find this email in your to-do list.

If you're using third-party tools like Microsoft To-Do, Microsoft can automatically feed items into your to-do list.

Your flag can act as a visual reminder that the email needs to be actioned.

16. Use rules.

You can filter emails so they go to a designated folder instead of cluttering up your inbox.

This keeps emails from a certain person or on a certain subject grouped together.

Rules make taking bulk actions easy.

Here's how to use rules on Outlook and on Gmail.

17. Set up auto-responders.

When you're away, you can set up auto-responders. This allows the email sender to get a response straight away.

If you're away for days or weeks at a time, designate a colleague the sender could reach out to. The email can then be actioned in your absence.

18. Extend your OOO.

When you're taking leave, add an extra day to your out-of-office (OOO) auto-responder.

This helps you manage the expectations of all the people in your inbox and gives you an entire day to catch up.

19. Improve email practices internally.

When it comes to managing internal emails on your team, you can all help each other.

There are many best practices you can use, such as:

  • Designating what messages are sent via email, versus IM, versus a project management tool.
  • Using "high importance" and "low importance" tags in Outlook.
  • Adding "[No Action]" to email subject lines when a message is information only.

By working together to improve internal emails, you can significantly reduce the volume of messages that land in your inbox.

20. Implement inbox zero.

Aim to clear your inbox whenever possible. Naturally, you won't be able to do this every single day.

However, keeping your inbox clean and organized can alleviate stress.

21. Use canned responses.

You might find yourself sending the same email replies over and over again.

Whether you're answering questions for customers about pricing or how to use a tool, you'll quickly come up with a list of frequently asked questions.

Instead of getting frustrated, create resources that you can use to help your customers — and save you time.

Consider building and creating a knowledge base so your customers can educate themselves without having to send you an email.

Your customers would rather find answers quickly while staying online.

Additionally, a knowledge base can rank on search engine results pages (SERPs) to help your customers find information as quickly as possible.

You can also create an FAQ page on your own website.

Once you have some shortcuts on your site to answer those common questions, set up a few canned responses that you can quickly and easily send to customers.

22. Keyboard shortcuts.

Keyboard shortcuts shave time off repetitive tasks.

It's worth taking 10 minutes each week to learn a few email keyboard shortcuts that can save time.

We're all familiar with ctrl+c for copy and ctrl+v for paste.

What about ctrl+r to reply to an email in Outlook or ctrl+shift+r to reply all?

23. Use tools and technology.

If you're ready to reorganize your inbox, there are tons of tools that can help you get rid of, organize, and review emails.

Here are a few we recommend.


email management tools, follow up then

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You may not have a personal assistant to manage your inbox, but FollowUpThen is the next best thing.

Let's say an email lands in your inbox and you don't have time to answer it.

You can CC or BCC one of the following addresses: 1min@followupthen.com, 1hour@followupthen.com, or {any-time}@followupthen.com.

The tool will then resend you the email at the specified time.

Now, you don't have to worry about important messages getting lost.


email management tools, ifttt

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IFTTT stands for If This, Then That. This tool can help you set rules that automate tedious tasks in your inbox.

For example, you can use the tool to send email attachments straight to Dropbox, turn emails into Trello cards, or get a text message every time you get an email from a specific someone.


email management tools, ifttt

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Sortd helps you cleanly organize your inbox, sort emails into visual columns, and drag-and-drop to-dos. It's intuitive, and it has a free version.

Soon, your email will be an all-in-one workspace that you can efficiently manage.

There's more where these came from. Check out this blog post to see more awesome email management tools.

24. Be honest with yourself.

How many emails can you get through in a day?

Based on your current deadlines, goals, and promises, does it make sense to check your email three times today, or only twice?

Adding structure to your email gives you a chance to give other tasks attention.

Email is only part of your job. Try to achieve some office zen and release the need to clear it all out right now.

That will allow you to clear your head and feel like you're on the right track.

25. Let go.

Your inbox doesn't reflect your ability to stay organized and get things done. Release the need to read every email.

It's just one of your daily to-do's, not the only to-do.

Managing Your Email

How many times did you check your email today? Try these tips and challenge yourself to be disciplined — and get countless hours of your workday back.

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