Management This is how you keep your e-mail inbox tidy

A woman is sitting in front of a computer with two monitors
Overwork can allegedly be due to insufficient demand.Getty Images

The dead live longer. The good old e-mail is repeatedly declared obsolete. And yet, despite Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or Slack, it remains one of the most important means of communication in the world of work. The unbroken popularity is reflected in the mass of messages that land every day in the various e-mail inboxes that every working person keeps an eye on.

Anyone who has the feeling that reading, answering and managing digital messages is a job in itself is not so wrong. According to a study by management consultancy McKinsey, we spend an unbelievable 28 percent of our working week just doing this. The number is from 2012 – but let’s be honest: Are you getting more or less emails today than five years ago? Just.

For the marketing expert Eli Langer, who counts Barack Obama among his followers, people can be divided into two groups. Those with zero and those with thousands of unread emails.

Even supposedly totally relaxed mail messis are forced to rethink at the latest when either Google, Outlook or the system administrator are on the mat because of the running out of storage space. These tips can help you cope with the flood of emails:

  1. Tabula rasa 2.0
    Every beginning is difficult and sometimes only cheating helps. If you want to get down to zero from hundreds or even thousands of unread messages, you really only have one choice: mark everything and mark it as “read”. As a precaution, it is advisable to scour the past few weeks to see whether an important message has slipped through. But then red or bold digits in the inbox will be a thing of the past.
  2. Clear conditions
    How the e-mail inbox is organized most effectively is a very personal matter. Some users benefit from labels and filters, others are overwhelmed. However, clear relationships always help. It can look like the actual inbox is only understood as a distribution station. Once an email has been read, it is either deleted immediately, immediately moved to an archive folder, or remains in the inbox until a matter has been clarified – but with the exception of absolutely special cases, this only until the end of the working week.
  3. A healthy work mail balance
    One thing in life is certain: less than five minutes without a new email. We are digital multitaskers, but we are all too easily distracted. Therefore the tip: turn off the signal tone for new messages and limit yourself to visual notifications if necessary. A preview window that is displayed for a few seconds can help separate important from unimportant emails and save yourself having to open the mailbox. If there is a task that requires full concentration, the e-mail program is simply closed. That’s fine.
  4. You shouldn’t spam
    Sometimes it’s just our own fault. As soon as the email has been sent, we remember things that we have forgotten and more emails follow. In the worst case, the addressee replies to each message individually – in reverse chronological order, of course – and the chaos they have caused is there. Digital communication tempts you to take quick action. It can often help to leave a non-rushing e-mail until the end of the working day and only then send it.


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