Need Help Organizing Your Email?


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

If you are overwhelmed by your inbox everyday, you are not alone. As electronic communication becomes more and more prevalent, responding to emails will take up a bigger and bigger chunk of your day.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that you can organize your email to make it more manageable.

Keep your inbox empty

One way to keep email manageable is to maintain an empty inbox. I know, if your inbox is empty, then what is there to manage? The put is to develop a system that keeps your inbox empty all the time.

Here are two quick ways to slim it down. Delete everything that is useless. You will never go back to it, so just get rid of it. If it needs a quick response (say you can take care of it in 2 minutes or less), answer it and delete it.

If you need to respond to things later, create some folders. Label them as “Review,” “Waiting On,” and “Do Now.” You can also essentially use your inbox as the “do now” folder, but that might tempt you to leave fifteen emails in there. Until you get the hang of it, try using the quick response and folder system.

Let Google organize your inbox

Gmail just rolled out a new feature called priority inbox. Apparently, the geniuses at Google have designed formulas that will determine whether an email is important or not so much. Their video seems to imply they figure this out based on which emails you read and which emails you do not.

Gmail will then automatically organize your emails into folders for you. If you do not like the preset folders, you can customize it to your liking. In addition, if emails end up in the wrong folders, you can essentially train Gmail with two buttons so that it will adapt.

I have not tried the new function and frankly I am a little scared of it. If you are already wondering if you missed an important email, this might not be for you. But if you are constantly overwhelmed, give it a shot and let me know what you think.


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  • Fully agree on you point about “If it needs a quick response (say you can take care of it in 2 minutes or less), answer it and delete it.”

    There’s a Gmail labs widget which adds a “send & archive” button along with the standard “send” button in compose windows. Very convenient to quickly respond to an email and move it out of your inbox in one operation.