As a business professional, you probably receive a large amount of emails each day, likely in the hundreds. Looking though your email inbox makes you wonder how it got out of control so quickly.

Which messages are important? What emails can wait until later? Where did the junk emails come from? Why are there so many messages sitting unopened? The questions just keep coming.
If your email inbox appears to be a barrage of disorganization and makes you feel guilty for not answering all the emails, it is probably time to figure out management techniques to keep your inbox in order.

1. Remember, Your Inbox is a Task List

Since your email inbox can serve as your personal task list for the day, the email settings should be set to prevent scrolling down. An inbox that displays more than 20 messages mentally means you have hundreds of tasks for the day which is instantly overwhelming. Ditch the scroll bar and reduce the number of messages that can be displayed at one time.

2. One Message for One Topic

If you have a series of emails the length of a football field pertaining to the same topic, keep one and file the rest in a folder. It is likely you are not going to read all of the messages so keep the most recent one and put the rest out of sight.

3. Reduce Folder Chaos

When looking through your inbox there are always messages that you cannot decide what to do with so you create a new folder. Before you know it, you have so many folders that you will never find the message; provided you even remember it is filed away. If you don’t know what to do with the message it is likely it does not deserve its own folder.

4. Stop Being a Micromanager

It is typical to have messages that relate to your colleague’s daily task list. If your inbox is a nightmare, how can you possibly keep track of other people’s responsibilities? Ditch the Forward emails and stop being a micromanager. It wastes your time and is annoying to others.

5. If It Is Not in the Inbox, Then Forget It

Get in the habit of taking action on your messages each day you open your inbox. Read the message and immediately decide what to do. Regardless if it is a small or large task, if it is in your inbox then it is important. If it isn’t, then forget it.

6. If It’s Older Than One Month, Do It or Toss It

If the email message has been sitting in your inbox for over a month, how important is it really? If you have been avoiding it for more than a month either take care of it or toss it. Also, if you are saving it because you think you will read it in your spare time; chances are you will find something else to do when your free time finally comes along.

7. Brush Your Email Daily

You wouldn’t go to work without brushing your teeth so make it a habit to brush your email inbox every day. As soon as you open your inbox make it a habit to decide what you can do without and clean it out. Your email is your personal space and can wear on you mentally without you realizing it. Allowing your email inbox to get out of control will cause you to miss deadlines, feel overwhelmed, and compromise your productivity in the workplace.

We all have a love/hate relationship with our inbox, but follow the tips above and reduce the pain.