Divide Your Inbox Into These Three Categories To Know What’s Important

Divide Your Inbox Into These Three Categories To Know What’s Important

If you have trouble prioritising the tsunami of email in your inbox, Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman has a trick that can help. Divide your inbox up into three simple categories: Inbox, CC and External.

Belle Beth Cooper explains what this looks like:

Scott uses filters to send incoming emails into three different inboxes: one for external emails (anyone outside his company), another for any emails he’s CC’d on, and a last one for all internal company emails sent directly to Scott.

  • Inbox
  • Inbox – CC
  • Inbox – External

This is a really good way to manage the time and energy you put into processing emails, because you can prioritise external emails if you want to (as Scott does) without wasting time looking for them in your inbox — or getting distracted by internal emails instead.

You can do this any way you want — using folders, Gmail’s Multiple Inboxes feature or this (unsupported and possibly account-breaking) hack. I’ve been doing it for a while, and it’s much easier to know what to prioritise when you can see who the email is coming from at a glance.

How to Scale Yourself and Get More Done Than You Thought Possible [Zapier]

10 Realistic Ways to Keep Your Overflowing Inbox Under Control [Zapier via 99u]


  • Or you keep your inbox clean, and actually DELETE or FILE things away when you’re done with them.

    • I used to do that.
      Now I take the exact opposite approach. I don’t move or delete anything. Storage is cheap, indexing is fast and being able to definitely find something later on is OK. Saves having to wonder if I put a mail from John in the subfolder for John or the folder for Admin, Payroll, Cack, Project Lovely or whatever . I use Outlook’s Search Folders to “filter” mails into usable lists, including Flagging any that actually need follow-up. No scrolling, no subfolders, no PSTs, no waiting for searching (as mails are already “in” their Search Folder), can easily retrieve old mails and no deleting/moving messages around. It was a liberating change.
      I also find that disabling incoming mail alerts and closing Outlook when wanting to get things done is a good productivity tip. As is explaining to all co-workers that I don’t do CC-ing – I won’t read/action anything where I’m only CC-ed. The content’s either for me, or not for me, don’t bug me with (usually arse-covering) cruft by CC-ing me.

      • I do exactly this and it works a charm. The cc folder was the biggest time saver and I explain the principle to people who get miffed that I didn’t reply to their ‘cc’.

    • Don’t know what planet you live on mate but i get 300+ a day with 30+ I need to respond to.

      Automatic filters are necessary.

  • This is the way I work. My inbox is ONLY for stuff I’m currently working on. Once it’s been dealt with, it’ll either go into an appropriate subfolder/label, or get deleted. Unfortunately for me, my inbox is currently sitting at 200 emails…. D:

  • Unlike some others, I archive any mail in one big folder. In this day and age I don’t see the point of manually categorising mail after I’ve read it. Clients, be they web based or desktop applications, are pretty decent when it comes to searching so I find that more reliable than trying to remember which category I dragged an email into.

    • I do exactly this. I then have two quick steps set up – Archive Complete (mark as read, put into Archive folder) and Archive Incomplete (Flag for follow up, put into Archive folder).

      So my inbox is things that are waiting to be sorted (which I generally do first thing in the morning while having a coffee, and either after lunch or before leaving for the day to make sure there’s nothing urgent) and my For Follow Up folder acts as a to do list.

      I find this a lot more suitable than having a million different folders, especially since they tend to overlap (did I put it in the vendor’s folder or the clients? or the name of the campaign the lead came from? does the response from my boss go in his folder or the clients folder, if it was about a client? etc).

      • Overlapping folders was a concern for me, as well as determining when to create a new category, and if that was required whether to go back and reorganise the old mail or not.

        That and even if I did sort onto folders, I’d inevitably have to perform a search still anyway once the folders got a few hundred emails in it.

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