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5 tricks I use to keep my inbox in check

I don’t want to be a slave to my emails but at the same time, I don’t want to lose a great vacation buzz because my inbox has 5,000 messages waiting for me when I get back to work. So, apologies to my family and friends when I take time here and there during my off-hours to monitor my inbox.

As an entrepreneur and someone in the public eye, I get thousands of emails a day. How, you might ask, can I possibly run my company without being crushed under the weight of all those emails?

Over the years I’ve learned you need to give your old email box a good “cleaning” with programs like CleanEmail. Tap or click here to learn how CleanEmail works. I’ve also developed and perfected 5 important tricks that have served me well in controlling my ever-needy inbox. I happily share them with you now.

1. Just a minute


When you’re faced with a tsunami of emails, it’s very easy to procrastinate — especially, for some reason, on those quick emails that don’t even take much time to answer. That’s why I instituted a one-minute rule.

This is what I do: If I open an email that requires a short sentence or two, or even just one word, I answer it right then. Why put off something that can easily be taken care of in a minute or less? Answer the email and now there’s one fewer task to do and one less message to deal with later.

2. When you really have to work

I could spend an entire day just dealing with emails, but there’s a good reason I don’t. Between radio interviews, TV hits, USA Today columns, meetings, calls and other commitments, I simply don’t have all that time.

I do have to admit, though, the constant email notification chime can act like a siren’s song. If I’m not careful, I’m back to looking at my emails.

Here’s how I solved it: When it’s time to buckle down, I close the browser tab in my email and switch off my phone’s email notifications. Now I can get my work done. And if anyone really needs to get a hold of me, they can call.


Related: Cut down the amount of spam in your inbox.


3. Set it and forget it


Both Microsoft Office and Gmail have rules that allow you to organize your email. With Gmail, you can create labels that work like folders and can cover the bulk of the emails you receive, such as press releases, invoices, communications from key business partners, messages from department heads — whatever you require.

To create a label in Gmail:

  1. Click the gear icon and click on Settings.
  2. Go to the Labels tab.
  3. At the bottom, click Create New Label.
  4. Name the label.
  5. Click Create.

The labels will show up on the left-hand reading pane of your inbox. Now you can manually move emails into the right spot. Here’s how:

  1. Opening the Message.
  2. Clicking the Label icon above the message (it looks like a tag).
  3. Checking off each Label to want to add, or type a new Label.

But why do that when you can easily make the process automatic? It’s simple:

  1. Click the caret in the Search Email Box and a drop-down form will appear.
  2. Insert the Criteria for your label/folders.
  3. Click Create filter with this search.
  4. Apply the label by clicking the Choose Label drop-down.
  5. Click Create filter to save.

If you use Microsoft Outlook, the easiest thing to do is create folders. Then, as you get emails, you can manually drag them to the appropriate folder, even starring the messages you don’t want to lose track of within a particular category.

A well-organized inbox has saved me from many a headache and helps me to quickly locate important emails. No more scrolling through thousands of messages to find the one I need, or missing something important in my inbox.

4. Remember talking?

Now, here’s one I take very seriously. If I get an email longer than three sentences, I pick up the phone and just call the sender. If you’re sending a long email, it usually merits a real conversation.

And while I admire you put so much effort into getting your thoughts and suggestions in writing, a lengthy email isn’t the way to go. Let’s talk and hash out the issues IRL instead of going back-and-forth over email.

Plus, it’s easy to lose the nuance of what you’re trying to say or correctly read your tone via email. A quick call can clear up any misinterpretations and help you get your point across quickly and in the way you meant to.


Related: 5 essential email hacks you’ll wish you knew sooner.


5. Stay in sync

Why is syncing so vital? Imagine someone sends you a critical email about an important deal you’ve been working on. Unfortunately, you haven’t synced your devices to receive all your messages. The important email ends up on your PC but not your smartphone. By the time you see the message, it might be too late and the big deal goes up in smoke. You don’t want that to happen.

To set up syncing on all your devices, go to your Gmail site on your desktop and click:

  1. The Gear icon
  2. Settings
  3. Forwarding and POP/IMAP
  4. Enable Pop for all mail, Enable IMAP
  5. Save Changes.

In that same menu, you’ll find a link for configuring mail retrieval through other platforms. This is important when trying to access your account through third party like Thunderbird, or through the native mail app on an iPhone.It’s much easier to set up using the official Gmail app that comes preloaded on Android phones, which is also available for iOS in the Apple app store.

If you use Microsoft Outlook at work, there is really only one sure-fire way to go about syncing your devices. If the mailbox you want to sync is on your company’s Exchange server, its best to take the devices to your IT department. They can provide you with the domain name and other information you need to set up the mailbox on other devices.

As you can see, some of these tips just require breaking out of old habits, going back to old-school communications and really getting to know what your email system can do.

Even if you just follow a few of these tips and tricks, I promise it will make a huge difference in your work productivity.

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