4 Helpful Ways to Take Control of Your Email Inbox

According to a Workfront 2017-18 State of Enterprise Work Report, the typical U.S. worker has an average of approximately 199 unopened emails in their inbox; which poses the question:  How does this ultimately affect productivity?

Providing the proper spam filters are applied, an over-abundance of unread messages can only lead to a general glitch in workplace communication. When information stops flowing, projects and tasks are delayed, and overall productivity is negatively impacted. Additionally, messages that have been read, but not replied to, have a similar effect by also delaying potentially important interactions among colleagues and coworkers. This is notwithstanding the resulting employee stress factor; as each unread message typically represents the accumulation of pending tasks.

Email Control - Woman working at laptop-holding smartphone

With this in mind, let’s explore some effective ways of undertaking an overflowing email inbox.

1. Use the “one hour” rule.

A recent study has indicated that while checking emails daily is a given, employees should go a step further and attempt to respond to all emails within one hour of receipt. Even for issues that are not solvable in a predetermined time frame, letting your sender know that you saw their message and are working to address the matter can relieve worried minds while boosting communication and confidence in the workplace.

2. Eliminate the excess.

Ladders reporter and former Facebook trending news editor, Monica Torres, recommends maximizing your option to “unsubscribe”. While most workplace email platforms have significant spam filters, you may still find that your address has made it to a few unwanted mailing lists. Torres cites productivity expert, Laura Stack:  “You want to cut back on the things that come into the inbox in the first place. There’s so much volume. Prevention is key”.

3. Avoid over-elaboration.

If you pay attention to the way many high-ranking business leaders respond to emails, you may notice that they often keep their reactions relatively short. Torres observes that a simple answer such as, “Thanks, but I’m passing” as a response to an unimportant or arbitrary request, is perfectly acceptable under the right circumstances; and will free your time to tackle the more pressing matters. Utilizing your Smartphone for this purpose is also a good way to ensure quicker responses as you are less apt to type the overly-elaborative answers that you might on your laptop or PC.

4. Focus on timeliness above perfection.

Torres makes note of employees whose perfectionism and fear of not saying “the right thing” often delays their email responses. She cites Ask a Manager’s, Alison Green, who references the importance of “reframing your idea of what ‘perfect’ email writing can mean”.  Green states, “In most cases, people like timely responses more than they like ‘perfect’ responses written several weeks too late”. While a natural amount of thought and care should be applied, “perfect” should actually allude more to timeliness rather than flawlessness. Torres points out that the key is to show your colleagues and coworkers that you are reliable.

Email Control - Inbox messages


Organization, time-management, and even a bit of confidence will do wonders to help you achieve your goal of “inbox zero”. Remember to make proper email management part of your everyday routine.


Fred Coon, CEO

At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.