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5 Big Tips For a Smaller, Cleaner Email Inbox

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

We all know that a messy desk or work environment often disrupts your productivity and your email inbox is no different.

There's nothing more headache-y than trying to get to an important email, only to have to sift through hundreds (or, sometimes, even thousands) of junky, stale emails. It happens. As an attorney, we sometimes get over hundreds of emails a day. Also, as an attorney, we have a tendency to want to keep most of them, "just in case."

In reality, though, while some of your emails are undoubtedly crucial, many of them are not and like that pair of outdated moccasins in the back your closet, will never really be needed ever again. So, here are 5 tips on how to shave off some of that clutter in your inbox (without needing to make things legal, as we so often do with everything else in our profession):

  1. Respond to them. It might seem obvious, but still worth bringing up. This is the first step you should take. Many of your emails are left as unread in your inbox as a reminder for you to reply to them -- only, these add up at the end of the day. Set aside at least one or two designated times during the day for you to comb through your email to make sure you don't miss anything that requires a response.
  2. Make folders. After you have replied to them, either delete them or file them away in the appropriate folder. Email folders are a great way to keep your inbox much cleaner, while still storing your important emails. You should have specific ones for big cases in particular, or practice areas.  
  3. Going on vacation? Plan ahead. Making sure that your auto-responder is on when you go on vacation is one of the first steps you should take. Not only that, but to avoid coming back to an overwhelming explosion of emails from your trip, designating someone else to help might be useful, as well. 
  4. Check notification settings (or unsubscribe). Unsubscribe from redundant emails or tweak your notification settings for many of the emails you are subscribed to. This includes deals, newsletters, social media alerts (especially for Facebook and Twitter -- do you really need an email every time someone 'likes' your post?) This is a great way to give your inbox a necessary purge. 
  5. Delete, delete, delete. Be mindful, of course, of emails from clients, which should most likely always be saved. But, when it comes to useless ads, spam, stale threads going around the firm about where you all should go for lunch, and expired Groupon notifications -- don't be scared to get a little 'X'-happy.

Especially at work and especially when it comes to email, cleanliness is next to godliness.

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