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Virginia Wells

How To Have (And Keep) An Organised Email Inbox

Is your email inbox out of control with emails that you want to keep? Do you struggle to find the email you are looking for even with searches? Then maybe it’s time you set up (or review) email folders and tags.

I’ve written several blogs on dealing with the email inbox and general paperwork filing so maybe scan over these posts too if you’re looking for help:

  1. Four Ideas To Get Through Your Dreaded Inbox
  2. How To Keep Your Inbox Under Control
  3. Overcome Your Inbox Overwhelm With These Simple Tips
  4. What Paperwork Should I Keep When I Do My Filing?
  5. What Paperwork Can I Throw Out?
  6. What To Do When Your Paperwork Starts Talking To You

Anyway, back to this blog! You’ve got an inbox full of emails that you think you need to keep. How can you organise them so you can find them when you need them again? Read on for my tips!

Email Inbox Organisation Tips

Do you need to keep it?

No really, do you? Often we place high importance on emails and documents, thinking we will refer back to it in the future. Sometimes, such as for tax purposes we do but, realistically, there are rarely other reasons. So think about it. Is this an email you really will look back at? If so, then the tips below about filing them into folders (or tagging them) will be useful.

Are you only keeping it, because it has an action associated with it?

Often, we keep things in our inbox because we have to complete something or reply to it. There’s an action attached to it. It’s a reminder to do something. So in that case, you might want to create an Email version of the Action Station. Or, use a Task Manager or To Do List App and note down the action (and a few notes if necessary), into this. Then you can delete the email, without fear of forgetting to respond or follow up.

Setting up folders or tags in your email client

If you’ve decided to keep an email, it is best to file it into a folder, or create a Tag. Setting up Folders in your email is just like a physical filing system or digital document folders. The same principles apply when it comes to naming them and creating sub-folders (or Tags).

You want to create a folder with a title that makes sense and is easy to find again. To help you get there, consider them like a physical bit of paper. Ask yourself:

  1. Why are you keeping this email?
  2. What would you be accessing this for again? This will give you a clue as to what to call the folder the email will be filed in. It doesn’t need to be really specific. In fact, it’s best that you use broader headings for Folder Names and Tags.
  3. Check out this link for hints on naming files and folders properly.

Once you have your folders set up, be sure to file your emails into them.


Once your email box is set up with folders, you could consider setting up email auto-forwards. Sometimes you may want to separate emails out before they even get into your inbox. Like all emails from a certain person or department. Siphoning off emails before it hits your inbox can be good if you want to mono-focus on one type of email at a time. Batching work can be a very efficient way of working. It can also stop you from looking at emails that aren’t that important during busy periods. In this case, you can auto-forward all newsletter emails to a ‘Newsletter’ folder. If you’ve got time, or need a break, you could then scan through these emails. Just be sure to purge it enough to keep it manageable.

Purging folders and emails

If you do set up folders, you might want to think about rules relating to how long you keep them. Check out my blog about setting up rules for paperwork. The same rules apply here. Although it may be easier to purge emails by sorting on date and deleting). Of course, digital files are a little easier to ignore. You can just buy more virtual cloud space, rather than having to make space in a filing drawer. Just consider the extra cost over time. It’s best to follow a few rules to maintain your email folders.

How do you KEEP your inbox organised?

Two quick tips to maintain these folders is:

  1. Only keep a certain amount of emails based on dates. Sort on the date and delete anything older than the date you chose.
  2. Sort on ‘Subject’ or ‘From’ and delete a whole bunch of emails based on the ones you don’t need anymore. That is, you know you can delete all newsletters from XYZ company or emails with the subject line ‘Conference 2016’.

These tips should get you started on organising your emails and making those being kept easier to manage.

What’s one thing you can do today to get you one step closer to an organised inbox?

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