Weekly Project: Getting That Email Under Control

Ivy says:

Anyone who has ever emailed me knows- I’m very haphazard about whether or not I’ll reply. It’s not that I don’t want to reply or anything, I just am extremely disorganized when it comes to email. I’ve been using the email program that comes with my Mac OSX software lately, and I’ve been even worse than usual about remembering to respond to email. So I’ll be going back to Thunderbird for my email client, and then I’ll be searching all around the ‘net for good tips on email organization.

So, let’s hear it from you, Home Eccers- how do you keep your email under control?


  1. Meegan on July 7, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Gmail is my saviour! I have all my email accounts forwarded to my gmail account and I really try and respond to emails ASAP. Definitely by the end of that day if I can.

    And I try and keep my inbox clean – only containing the emails that I need to respond to. All others either get tossed or filed.

    Keeping my inbox clean means I know at a glance how much work I’ve got to do at any given time. I also use Google calendar – entering any reminders/events etc as needed. It helps having everything available online and accessible and you can make it as complex or as simple as required.

  2. Kati B on July 7, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Oooh! The inbox is the place I can see that I’m getting overwhelmed first.

    My inbox is like the kitchen table. Stuff comes in and gets dumped there (unless spam filters toss it in the trashcan immediately) until I make a decision about it or act upon it. A full inbox just means 50 decisions that I have put off.

    I’ll leave something there until I write down the meeting/appt in my calendar, or respond to the person with my answer, or file it as archived information in one of about five folders (for major categories of organizations I belong to).

    I love to be able to see only a handful of messages there.

    I have recently let my gmail get out of control, but my Thunderbird acct is cleared out and ready to serve dinner on!

  3. Liz on July 7, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I have a lot of trouble with this. I’m a librarian, and part of my job is to read lots of listservs. To keep control, I have two email accounts. One is for messages from friends and family, and other important messages. The other is for listservs and online sale confirmations. I take time every day to go through to those. I immediately delete the ones that I don’t need. I delete the rest of them as I read them. If I think I might need it later, I put it in a folder.
    So mainly, it works best for me to stay on top of it. Delete, delete, delete. There is very little mail that I receive that I need to keep.

  4. Amanda Regan on July 7, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I have a folder in my e-mail account where I move all the mail I need to answer then whenever I have the time and more importantly the inclination I work my way through that folder.

  5. imabug on July 7, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    If you haven’t learned to use Thunderbird’s message filters, learn them.

    I use folders in Thunderbird fairly extensively to organize my email. Each of the mailing lists I subscribe to has their own sub-folder under a MailingLists folder. Emailed receipts and order confirmations from online purchases are also for the most part stored in subfolders by store. Everything else is stored in folders based on who they come from (i.e. mail from my friends goes into a Friends folder). The rest goes into a catch-all Archive folder.

    The mail filtering feature helps with this immensely. You can set up filters based on numerous things in the mail header such as the subject, From field, To field, Body content. My mail filters route all the incoming mail into their respective folders, with the rest going into the in-box. You can set up message filters in Google Mail as well to automatically tag messages.

    Generally, I have most of the unimportant stuff (mailing list mail, receipts, etc) filtered right away so whatever stays in the inbox is usually stuff I want to read/respond to right away.

    Unless I’m really swamped, I try to make it a point to respond to an email (if required) when it comes in. May take me a while to compose the message, but at least it’s started.

    I try to keep my inbox fairly small, moving stuff out into their respective folders after a while. Some stuff gets deleted, but I usually end up keeping about 80% of my email for posterity.

  6. Kacie on July 7, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I’ve been plagued with endless e-mails just sitting in my inbox as well.

    My strategy is to clean out all messages daily, but if that doesn’t happen, I like to do that weekly.

    By “clean out,” I mean I respond to, delete, or archive all messages in my inbox. I just tackle it!

    It’s a great thing for my sanity, I tell ya.

  7. Allison on July 7, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Originally, I would mark “unread” any e-mail that I needed to respond to. This included responding to blog comments, family e-mails, an amazon.com e-mail that had a deal that I would like to check out, etc. It worked well, but sometimes it would take me forever to find that one unread e-mail because it was from a week ago.

    Instead, I’ve recently implemented a “zero inbox” policy (thanks to a few Geek friends of mine who love Getting Things Done!): I archive *everything* once I’ve delt with it. This means that there is nothing in my inbox if I’ve responded to all of my e-mails for the day. Or, if there *is* something in my inbox, I know it means I need to do something about it.

    It’s been great so far. I don’t have to worry about forgetting about responding to someone, and it feels great when you reach inbox zero!

  8. Heidi @ Carolina Dreamz on July 7, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I opened my account with GMail and forward everything into it. Everything. Even my domains. Even my blog comments.

    I don’t bother setting up the outgoing email thingee to a different thing and I go to whatever the original email was if I need to reply.

    I also set up a new free google email account to try things out or for subscriptions (or craigslist ad replies). That way if I need to ditch it, I just delete it altogether.

    I also set up my domain emails to be “catch-all” accounts so I can track ads/brochures/handouts/fliers/business cards related to certain functions. (ex: if you print a different prefix email to your domain, for a function you are attending, you can better track where the person got your information. This helps me remember people I’ve met, too.)

    All my bacn (like google alerts) mail goes directly to the main gmail account.

    I don’t organize anymore. I don’t tag/categorize/save/file/sort. I just use the google search function to find something when I need to. I used to use the labels but it took up too much of my time.

    Usualy my “todo’s” stay in the first two pages. I try to delete the social media “add” emails as I take action to them.

    If google ever dies, I’m hosed. 😛

    The best part, about this, though, is that most of my emails are backed up at a different source, too.

    Now when you need a Virtual Assistant to sort your email and respond for you.. give me a call. My clients are always more organized than I am. Its like my obsession for them. 🙂

  9. Stephanie on July 7, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I’m not fabulous in this department either, but the best way I’ve found is to respond immediately. It doesn’t always happen though it is the goal. If I let it sit in my inbox it will languish there for months.
    The other thing I do is file in folders anything I want to save but don’t need to respond to. At least then I know at a quick glance how far behind I am in responding to emails.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.