Emails, love them or hate them, if you are in business, you’re going to get them. I manage multiple clients’ and a VA network. I have emails coming in constantly. I don’t profess for one minute that I have the busiest email inbox out there, but it’s busy enough. So how do I manage a hundred or so emails a day?

It doesn’t matter what email client you use, if you have all your emails pouring into your inbox with no organisation you will be overwhelmed all too quickly. Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list, it will fail miserably. I had someone tell me the other week they have over 2,000 unread emails in their inbox.  I was astounded; the problem of managing their email was so out of control that they couldn’t face them. My suggestion was delete the whole lot, if there is anything super important in there; someone will email you to find out why you haven’t responded. Simply ask them to resend the email.

Take back control

You need to manage your inbox not let it manage you. Once you get your emails under control you will feel a sense of organisation and control. You will have less clutter to way down your thinking and keep you distracted.

I run my domain through Gmail and I love the features that come with this program. (As an FYI, I’ve used Outlook, Thunderbird and a few other email clients in the past but I prefer Google Apps.) The principle is the same no matter what you are using; mail comes in, it sits there, it builds up and you stress. I’ll declare it up front right now; I love organisation so neat and tidy and labels float my boat, yep labels. I like them because at a glance, I can see who has emailed me, and if they have a label, they are important.

Create a series of folders in your email client. Check first though, that you are not taking up space in your actual ‘inbox’. If I remember rightly, for Outlook you need to create .pst or personal folders. Try this structure, it has worked for me since starting my business, almost 4 years ago now and it hasn’t let me down.

Create some structure

Create the following folders for your inbox, this is the super basic layout but it is enough to get you started.  The whole idea is to keep it simple, don’t over complicate your folders, the number of them or the number of sub folders.  Think about it if you have a main folder, with three subfolders and each of those have four or five sub, sub folders where does it end? It is simply to confusing; how are you ever going to find anything. Don’t do it. Keep it super logical, and remember these headings are my headings, they may not be relevant to your particular business however, you will get the idea.

  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Clients
    • Client 1
    • Client 2
  • Financial
    • Receipts
    • Invoices
    • Accountant
    • Bookkeeper
  • The Team
    • name 1
    • name 2
  • Action
  • Feedback
  • Read Later

Label the important stuff

  • If your mail client allows, set up labels for your important people.
  • Use filters to tell your email client what you want to happen to certain emails when they hit your inbox, you can label them, have them moved to the relevant folder  and deleted from your inbox.
  • Use filters to handle the not so important people and the annoying emails. You remember, the sites you signed up to that you are not really interested in.

For example, a client’s newsletter arrives, I want to read it but not straight away. It would be labeled both the client’s name and read later and filed in read later as unread and deleted from my inbox. I would do this because it is where I would look for it to ‘read later’. Then when it has been read, I would remove the read later label and it would automatically remain in the client’s folder for reference.

Reviewing your email

We’ve all read posts that tell you how you should manage your time with your inbox, but what they don’t tell you is this is not a nice to do it’s a must do. You need to spend ‘allocated’ time each day reviewing your inbox. When I log on of a morning, email is the first thing I open. I review, allocate and delete then and there in the first 30 minutes. I don’t rush this process because it’s important for my productivity.


If clients’ send in work requests, they appear in my inbox labeled with the client’s name, I read them decide on the course of action. Is it just for my information, in which case I will remove the inbox label from the email and it will remain under my client’s name. If it for action then it moved to the relevant day folder for when I am going to do the work. It is these emails that will end up on my to-do list for the following day.

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