What is the state of your inbox?

I have a confession to make. At one point in my career, I had 50,000 unread email messages!  My inbox was literally overflowing and I felt completely out of control. I would get small panic attacks knowing that I had that many emails. I knew I had to deal with them, but how?  There were too many messages for me to handle. The state of my inbox was a total mess, which was also a reflection of other aspects of my life. With all the determination I could muster, I knew I needed to take back control and I began to face the mountain of messages. 

First, I had to be honest with myself. Now, it’s your turn to answer these questions truthfully. What areas of improvement could you make when it comes to your email habits? What are you doing well? What bugs you about email messages? Lastly, what is the state of your inbox? The items listed below will help you to improve your email inbox habits.

Purposefully check your email accounts. Set aside time to read emails and manage the messages each day. If you are like me, you may have multiple accounts. That’s fine, you just need to dedicate time to each one.

Setup and use folders. I love this email feature! You can designate a place for your emails. This way the information is easy to locate instead of searching an archive. One of my folders is called “Promotions” so my inbox doesn’t feel inundated. I have to admit, I rarely read these emails unless the subject line catches my eye. However, I like to receive emails from educational companies that offer discounts. When I am ready to make a school related purchase, I check this folder because I can easily access coupon codes! 

Archive mail you aren’t ready to delete. Most email services now have the ability to archive.  This is a cool feature that allows you to hoard emails, but not see them. I like this feature because I never know when I might need that information in an email. However, be aware of the space you are using. Remember: you don’t need to keep every email!

Use the flag feature. This allows you to quickly find important messages or it can serve as a follow-up reminder.

Set up and use filters. When email messages come your way, you can set up “rules” for them to follow. How cool is that?They can go right into folders or tabs (depending on how you set it up).

Empty your trash regularly. Make a date with your trash can. You may need to set aside a small amount of time each day to take control of what’s taking up space. This will also allow you to manage your email subscriptions you may have forgotten about.  Don’t forget about emptying your spam folder as well. However, read on before you accidentally delete an important message!

Spam isn’t all bad. Every few days, visit your spam folder. Sometimes important messages will be lurking there. Establish “rules” to help manage your messages (as mentioned above). This way they will be less likely to be in your spam folder.

Use other email features wisely. There are many additional features that can make your life easier and reduce your workload. However, I caution you to use them with care. You can set up an automated “away” messages and even use auto reply options. Just remember to update them!

As a professional, you owe it to yourself to take control of your inbox. I am happy to report by using these simple tips over the past few years, my inbox has become more manageable. You don’t have to have zero unread messages, but you should have a clear understanding of the state of your inbox. Good luck and happy emailing!


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About the Author

Teresa Marchant a Teacher Librarian at Lockwood School in Billings, Montana. She has been an educator for 20 years and has served as the Professional Development Committee Chair in her school district and on the board for the Montana Library Association. Additionally, Teresa has been part of team responsible for writing state and local Library Information Literacy standards. She holds a Masters in Educational Technology with an emphasis in Online Instruction from Montana State University as well as a certificate in School Library Media from the University of Washington. She loves learning and enjoys helping others which makes her an awesome school librarian. 

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