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Fall Cleaning: Tackling Your Inbox Once and For All

There’s a lot of hype around spring cleaning, but fall is just as great a time to clean house and refresh your flow for the last quarter of the year. For event professionals, this is particularly prudent as it helps us get ahead of the impending holiday season and will put you in the best place to make some solid goals for the following year. 

Although this fall and winter will look remarkably different than other years, it's no reason to let our businesses and our personal lives fall out of order. For many, our email inboxes are the first thing to go. A cluttered inbox usually signifies a cluttered mind, so it can be a therapeutic act of self-care to clean up your emails and create a system that organizes your inbox once and for all.

These strategic email management tips will help you become more intentional and systematic when it comes to keeping your inbox—and your mental space—streamlined and mess-free.

Get organized with folders

If you take a look at your desktop or cloud drives, there's a good chance that you keep all of your photos, videos, and documents organized by folders. This concept should carry over to your inbox, too; an email filing system keeps everything within reach without overwhelming you at first glance. Ideally, everything in your inbox should be linked to real-time action items, and the rest should be filed away (or deleted). How you organize your folders is up to personal preference. I work best chronologically, so I have yearly folders on the top level and client subfolders within each year (in addition to admin tasks like Taxes, Payroll, Hiring, etc.).

Find the system that works best for you and commit to filing every single email away. Even an excellent search function can't remind you to follow up on an email you haven't responded to yet. Think of your inbox as a to-do list; once a task (email) is done, file it away and move onto the next item.

Start with a triage

After you’ve put your filing system in place, it’s time to look at your approach to new emails. When you open your inbox, first delete all of the junk emails that you won’t be reading—the ads, subscriptions, sales, and other promotional content. This will leave behind only the most important emails you can address, which you can tackle one at a time. For emails that you can answer within a few minutes, do so and file them away. If it's a longer ask, let the sender know you're working on a response and keep it in your inbox until you've completed it and responded.

Use your time wisely

At this point, you’re left only with emails that will take some time to respond. Consider how long each will take and head over to your calendar to add each task into your day. This might seem like an unnecessary step, but it will hold you accountable for responding in a timely manner. For Gmail users, an alternative option is to add those email responses to the “Tasks” tab and, instead, simply set time on your calendar to tackle all of the Tasks.

Unsubscribe freely

All of that junk mail that you delete without opening wastes your time and energy, even if it seems like a small part of your day. The less that comes through your inbox, the less mental strain you take on—thus, it makes sense that anything that you do receive should have some value attached to it. Set aside time on a monthly or quarterly basis to go through your junk emails and unsubscribe to anything you no longer want to receive.

Unfortunately, email management is never going to be the “fun” part of running a business. However, it is necessary to keep yourself organized and ensure effective communications with clients and creative partners. By investing some upfront time and a bit of regular maintenance, you’ll quickly reap the benefits of a clear inbox and a clear mind. 


Elizabeth Sheils

Co-founder, Rock, Paper, Coin

Elizabeth Sheils is the co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, the first software platform to bring together wedding planners, couples, and vendors into one system for managing and paying contracts and invoices. Elizabeth is also a lead wedding planner with award-winning firm Bridal Bliss, where she manages the Seattle team. She was recently recognized by Special Events in its Top 25 Event Pros to Watch series.