Email is quite an important form of communication on both the personal and professional front. Most of us are always on the lookout for a better way of managing the Email Inbox. Let me first tell you a couple of ways that don’t work, but commonly followed.

  1. Keep sampling some out of the pile of unread emails based on some mystical sense of importance and process them, till you feel better and leave the rest. One of my colleagues did that, and when I requested snapshots of his Inboxes, he graciously shared it. Look at the featured image. Funny, isn’t it? He was my direct and many times, I had to make a special call to make him read a mail that he had never opened.
  2. Read the unread emails and act on them. But, if some mail requires a longer time, change its status back to unread, for revisiting and move on to the next. I followed this for many years and so know that it is unreliable.

Then there are some complex methods that you simply don’t comprehend, leave alone implement them.

Let me propose a simple technique that I have tested in the noisy environment of my corporate jobs. I refer to Outlook App here, but it should work for any other Email App.


  1. Create a sub-folder say, “Next Action” in “Inbox”. This will be the place to hold mails that are going to take some time for you to go over and act or reply.
  2. Set the property for this folder as “show total number of items”, by right-clicking.
  3. Create a shortcut for this folder in “Favorites”. Remove other default items in Favorites that you really don’t care about. I have only three Favorites – Drafts, Inbox and Next Action.

Note: Be careful to not delete the folder and just remove a shortcut to that folder from Favorites.

Act on the unread mails right at the moment:

  1. If a mail is not useful, simply delete it or mark it as spam, if it is so.
  2. Liberally unsubscribe to newsletters that didn’t come up to your expectations.
  3. Complete the implied action from the mail, if it is quick to do.
  4. Now the most important one – If a mail requires some different setting (as in, place, time, and energy level) to process, COPY (not MOVE) it to the “Next Action” folder and move on to the next unread mail till you reach that magical moment of ZERO unread emails.
  5. The number against “Next Action” Favorites item, indicating the number of items in that folder, will help to draw your attention to it.
  6. When you find a suitable time, visit the “Next Action” folder and process the mails in it, and once done, simply delete them from the folder (as these are copies), till you reach the next magical moment of ZERO “Next Action” items.

Managing email inbox becomes crucial to keep things under control if you get 10s of emails every day. Following this simple and efficient method will go a long way towards making you productive.

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