How-To: Keep Your Inbox from Taking Over Your Life

The computer age is great. Tasks that used to take days now take seconds, information is always there at the touch of a button, and businesses can extend their realm of marketability beyond their local walls and into the annals of cyberspace. With all of these positives, though, it must be said that there are some negatives that come with it.

If you are an office manager, you may consider email to be one of those negatives. Perhaps you treat going to your inbox as if it were a life sentence. How many spam messages will I get today, you think with a sigh. Then there is the matter of simply sorting through the good ones. Which ones demand your immediate attention and which ones can be ignored until later? Which ones are just the latest forward from one of your coworkers? If you are finding that you are spending too much of every day sifting through your email, this article is for you. We’ve devised a simple set of ways for you to get your inbox organized and turn your email back into a positive.

Folder Creation

The first step toward making your inbox a place of calm and peace is to create some folders. If you have ever done this with your internet bookmarks, you may already know how much easier they can make finding something (especially if you’re a bookmark packrat). Why not try the same thing with your email? A lot of people are not even aware of the many things their Outlook can do. This is a shame, because while Microsoft may not be the perfect company, they really have loaded their email program with a lot of features that probably go unused by ninety percent of their users. If you’re one of them–do one thing before go any further. Take an hour or so and just explore your email. Just play around with it. See what it can do. Chances are, you’ll be surprised by what you find.

Ok, time to get back on track with folder creation. Let’s say you want all of your client’s emails in one folder, all of your employee’s emails to go to another folder, and then your boss’s emails to go in a third folder. You can of course go on and on, but we will stop there for the sake of brevity, and since we have little way of knowing how you specifically want to separate your email categories. To do this, just go under File and click the New Folder icon. Label it something easy like “Clients” or “Boss”. No sense getting creative here and then creating an extra level of confusion for yourself when you go to retrieve your mail. Do this again and again for each of the various categories you want to make.

Directing Email Traffic

Once you have your folders in place, you may be wondering if you are going to have to copy and paste each email into the correct folder when they are received. Of course not, that would just be adding several extra steps and creating even more inbox confusion. What we want is to make your email life a little easier. So here’s the next step. You are going to create rules for each of your folders. This is done through the Outlook program and it can easily be set up to distribute your emails to the appropriate folders. You can set it up to go by subject line, or by the sender. This way, if your boss sends you an urgent message, it will go straight to the Boss folder you created, and you’ll know you need to take a look at that email and address it before getting to your other folders and any new messages you have in there. You’ll still have an alert in the main system itself that will tell you when you’ve received new emails and to what folder you should look to find them.

The Real Inbox

Now that you have sorted out your email inbox, what to do about the one on your desk, piling up with papers from every which way? Well, there are some simple steps you can take to clear that out and make it less of a burden as well. 3M and Rolodex offer a variety of products you may never have heard of that can help you get organized in a hurry. Take the time to find a good online office supply shop and browse their selection of merchandise to find excellent tools you can use to clean up the clutter.

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