Five Tips to a More Productive Inbox

I challenge you to optimize your email and hack your day to get more done.

Chances are that you have a large amount of emails in your inbox right now… but don’t check right now, first read this as it might change your life. Inboxes are usually seen as a massive hurdle that manifests itself into a black hole. I used to be just like you but over the past 10 years I’ve been optimizing my email for maximum efficiency. It’s always a work in progress. I challenge you to optimize your email and hack your day to get more done.

Over the last two months, this hub has presented amazing ideas on how we can all show up differently. But in practical terms, we won’t be able to if we spend all day dealing with people who Reply All.

Here are five tips that will help make that will make email your friend.

Tip #1: The Key is Smart Email Folders or Tags

Get proactive and categorize your inbox to create efficiencies. Organize your inbox into two types of folder structures:
(1) organizational folders – the categories of your work (for me it’s initiatives, companies and offices).
(2) productivity folders – an organization structure of your weekly workload. For example:

  • File = A folder for quickly moving emails out of my inbox that I read while mobile.
  • Later = A folder for email responses I need to take action on later that evening or after I’ve gone through my inbox.
  • (subfolder) *Later5Days = A folder of emails that I don’t need to take immediate action on but should complete by the weekend.
The *’s are so that these folders are at the top of your inbox, which makes it easier to move emails when you’re mobile. Anything you keep in your inbox is what you should respond to that day.

Tip #2: Tackle All the Emails!

Sometimes it’s tough to figure out where to begin. Typically, I start with the most critical emails first, but after that I either start from the bottom or the top. I don’t skip around to what’s "easiest" first, which keeps me honest and ensures that no email gets left behind.

Tip #3: Multitask Your Monitors

I always work with at least two monitors but three is my preference. This is truly critical to my productivity. Anytime you minimize a window to open another is time wasted. Here’s how I usually use my screens:

  • Screen 1 = Email Inbox, Skype, Web Browser
  • Screen 2 = My Calendar and Open Documents
  • Screen 3 = News and social feeds

Tip #4: Meet Techhit, an App That Will Make all the Difference

How often do you need to find a folder or tag in your email system? How often do you go through your folders to find that one file? No longer.

  1. Techhit’s SimplyFile = I can quickly hit a keystroke, which pops up a window in my inbox that allows me to type in the name of the folder and just hit enter. It also suggests folders based on your filing history and it batch sorts emails into folders, which is handy for my *file folder I mentioned earlier.
  2. Techhit’s QuickJump = Similar idea as above, but for Windows folders. I hit my keystroke, a window pops up, I start typing, hit enter and it opens up the exact folder I was looking for.

Tip #5: Email Yourself

It’s easy to accumulate a to-do list when you’re on the go. Whether it’s a viral video someone told you about at the coffee machine or a new task someone assigned to you while you were walking down the hall, you need to have a place to write it all down. Sometimes I find the simplest way to follow through is to send myself an email with all of the relevant info.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Please feel free to share any questions and your own personal productivity tips in the comments below.

Adam Hirsch is executive vice president, emerging media and technology at Edelman Digital.

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