“Know Thy Inbox”: The Best Way to Organize Your Email

best ways to organize email

In his play titled “Prometheus Bound,” the Greek playwright Aeschylus utilized the maxim “know thyself” when the demi-god Oceanus came to reason with Prometheus against his rebellion towards the gods.

This maxim has since been used numerous times in myriad ways to serve as both warning and inspiration for those seeking something. That something could range from knowing your limitations to attaining enlightenment.

It can also be for knowing and understanding your workflow to maximize productivity, and minimize the fatigue associated with working hard instead of smart.

So why, then, have so many of us strayed from the ancient wisdom of “know thyself” in favor of “hurry up”? How can someone hurry up if they don’t know the best way to go about whatever it is they’re doing? At best, the result is extra mistakes that take up more time. At worst, there begins a catastrophic undertaking to fix those mistakes that result in excessive loss of time and money and reputation and possibly even clients.

Are you sure you want your professional reputation to be represented by “makes more mistakes than necessary…at best”? 

That’s why it’s of the utmost importance that before you set out on your journey, you develop a game plan. And before you develop a game plan, you need to know how all of the moving parts work. You must know every segment, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each, in order to be strategic in your approach.

With that in mind, we too should pinpoint the individual segments of our inbox. That’ll give us the basis for understanding how each unit works together.

We’ll then be one step closer to knowing ourselves.

The following four types of emails I’ve referenced at one point or another in my blog, but comprise the foundation of the ARTT™ system. Understanding these four types of emails will lay the foundation for your future work, too, and are the best way to organize email:

  1. Action Emails

These emails are ones that require you to do something right away. This could be information requested by your boss to complete a quarterly assignment, or an invite to a meeting where you need to confirm it works with your schedule.

Whatever it is, there is something YOU need to take action on right now. 

If your boss sent an email saying “I need ‘this’ by noon” and then you put that email in a folder titled “old”, are you really going to remember to get that ‘this’ to your boss by noon? 

Doubt it.

  1. Reference Emails

Reference emails are those that you may or may not need to do something with (more info on that when you join my free webinar), but you don’t want to delete them because of the important information they have.

The importance of these emails will vary from person to person, department to department, and profession to profession, but they all boil down to the same thing: this is information I/we may need to refer to later, so don’t throw it out.

It’s kind of like your paystubs – you don’t want to throw those out, because they’ll be important when tax season comes along. 

Keep them safe.

  1. Tracking Emails

Everyone has delegated a task to someone at some point. It may not be something as major as a project, but even just asking someone to answer a question, or sending an invoice out to a client to pay, are both examples of delegating the next action to someone else over email.

However, when you ask someone to do something for you, how often do you just completely forget about it? If you asked your child to do the dishes, are you not going to check to see if they did it by the end of the day? At minimum, wouldn’t you notice if there were still dishes in the sink?

You need to follow up on tracking emails in the exact same way you need to follow up with someone completing a task you delegated. Often, there isn’t much for you to do until they complete their task.

Think about it like this: how’re you going to cook dinner if your son didn’t wash the pots and pans you need?

Make sense?

  1. Trash Emails

Finally, we all get junk mail. We all get emails that are irrelevant to us. We all get an email from a newsletter we don’t really read anymore, or an advertisement for a product from a company we made a purchase from in the past.

These are some of my favorite emails because I can quickly identify them as being unnecessary, and delete them immediately. After going through new emails, I may find that 25% of them were trash and now that massive bold list in my inbox doesn’t seem as daunting.

Knowing what’s actually important, and what can be tossed into the bin, will significantly reduce the mental clutter when it comes to organizing your inbox.

So there you have it! Know thyself by knowing the fundamental types of emails you have in your inbox, and watch your ability to organize your inbox go from amateur to professional.

What Next?

If you’re using your email without a strategy, or just utilizing the basic functions, then you are likely forgetting important things, feeling surprised, and relying too much on searching for stuff. There’s a better way with an easy-to-follow strategy that you can master. That’s why I’m inviting you to my complimentary,  45-minute webinar that’ll help you learn how to feel in control of your inbox, be more responsive to important collaborators, and reduce your anxiety and stress. 

ARTT™ demonstrates time-saving techniques within Outlook primarily; however, the concept is platform-agnostic. It is about teaching your human habits connected to technology so you can be an efficient and productive professional. 

Register for your favorite date today and I look forward to having you at the program.

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Email Productivity with ARTT™

The ARTT™ Email Productivity Service will help you take control of your inbox and let you decide how YOU want your day to go. No more working against a never-ending email to-do list. It is time for you to master the ARTT™ of email.