Top 10 tips for keeping your e-mail inbox clean

Updated: 12/29/2017 by Computer Hope
Notification of new e-mail.

These days, most personal and important digital correspondence happens through e-mail, so it's important to keep it organized. Here are some tips for cleaning up your inbox.

Setup rules, filters, or labels

Today, all e-mail programs and online e-mail services have rules, filters, or a labeling system that lets you move and otherwise organize incoming e-mails. Use these features to organize your e-mail and determine what is most important first. Below are some suggestions for rules we suggest trying first.

  • Move important and unimportant e-mails to a folder of their own.
  • Highlight or set priority to certain addresses. For example, a rule could be created to highlight users in your address book.
  • Filter out common spam words in your inbox (e.g., Viagra).
  • In programs that support rules, mark unimportant messages to keep your inbox clean and prevent you from getting overwhelmed when you first open an e-mail.
  • If you are getting a lot of spam, filter your e-mail through Gmail.

Do not be afraid to delete

After reading e-mail, always take action on that e-mail. Do not save it for later or move it into a folder to deal with later. If you cannot take action on the e-mail, delegate it to someone else, or postpone it for later that day. Every e-mail doesn't need a response, and there's no reason to save an e-mail that are deleted later.

Automatic replies, FAQs, and canned responses

If you use the same reply repeatedly, consider creating a list of your frequent replies that you can copy and paste. Or, try using a tool such as one of the ones listed below to help make replying to these e-mails even faster.

Thunderbird Quicktext - A fantastic Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail add-on.
Lifehacker Texter - Easy-to-use script tool that can be used anywhere in Windows, including e-mail.
AutoHotkey - Another great tool, although more advanced. However, this tool can automate anything on the computer.

Keep it simple

People overcomplicate their e-mail by creating different folders to help organize their e-mails. Keep it simple, don't use too many folders to organize your e-mail.

If there's no way of getting around your need for folders in e-mail, use the rules to filter your messages into the folders. Folders can save hundreds of hours you may be spending thinking about and organizing each of the e-mails you receive.

Always make quick short replies

When replying to your e-mails, keep the reply as quickly as possible and do not spend too much time on an individual e-mail. We suggest spending no more than five minutes on a single e-mail and avoiding anything longer than three paragraphs.

You are e-mail is not a calendar or to-do list

Often a person's inbox is full because they treat it like a calendar or to-do list. Do not use your e-mail for this. Have a separate program or document for things you need to do, or that keeps track of your calendar of events.

Unsubscribe from newsletters and disable notifications

Although you may have had good intentions when subscribing to a newsletter or another e-mail list, these are often distracting and clutter your e-mail. Unsubscribe from any newsletter you have not been reading.

The same is true for notifications from social network sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter you may be receiving. Disable all notifications about posts made on your wall, new friends, or followers, which clutter your inbox and distract you.

Do not reply to spam

If spam sneaks past your protection or rules, never reply to it; delete the message.

Keep at it but not too much

Try to read your e-mails at least once daily or every hour, depending on how much e-mail you receive.

However, do not live in your e-mail. Create a schedule of when to check your e-mail regularly and then ignore it all other times. If you have any notifications about new incoming e-mails, disable these or close your e-mail program or e-mail web page.

Delete some more

Finally, if after following all the above steps you still have e-mails that are weeks old, delete them. If you have difficulty deleting e-mails, create a folder and move all old e-mails into that folder. After a few weeks, the e-mail becomes too old for a reply.