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6 Email Organization Tips to Amp Up Productivity

Published November 10, 2023

The average person receives as many as 120 emails per day. If you dirtied 120 dishes per day, or acquired 120 pieces of clothes to put in the laundry every day, you might think: uh-oh, I’ve got a problem. 

Yet how many of us make cleaning our inbox a priority?

If you want to rein in your email organization, the secret isn’t to try and solve everything within your inbox. You can’t fix your email distraction problems by mass-deleting emails, potentially dooming mission-critical messages to the trash bin. Nor can you expect a few Gmail organization tips to solve everything.

Check out our suggestions below for ideas on improving your email organization:

Tip #1: Use Labels to Get Organized

If getting your inbox under control feels like herding cats, you’ll still need to start somewhere. Let’s focus on the email organization strategies that will have the biggest impact on your productivity:

  • Tags and labels. If you’re organizing emails in Outlook, Gmail, and other email clients, you’ll notice you can tag/flag emails as you see fit. Use color-coded tags to prioritize emails. A classic example is the “traffic light” method. For instance, “red” makes sense as a high-priority email tag, while yellow tags suggest moderate importance and green emails are ready to delete or archive.
  • Use the “Getting Things Done” strategy. In “Getting Things Done,” author David Allen recommends using a few “buckets” for every task: do it, delegate it, or trash it. One option is to use labels to assign similar “buckets” for each email.
  • Use Groups in lockrMail. Sign up for lockrmail and you can create custom “Groups.” This feature lets you quick-assign specific email senders into unique categories to add and manage email delivery settings in bulk. 

Tip #2: Use Folders and “Rules” To Their Fullest

Gmail and Outlook offer plenty of helpful tools for organizing emails. But if you’re looking for a complementary tool, sign up for lockrMail. This way, you can handle email organization from a much more user-friendly dashboard. Here’s how to use folders and rules in each tool:

  • In Outlook, use “rules” by right-clicking an email and selecting “Rules > Create Rule.” For example, if an email subject contains a specific word, you can automatically filter those emails into the topic-specific folder. Within Outlook, right-click an email address and select “Create new folder,” giving it a descriptive name for easy reference later.
  • In Gmail, use “filters” to apply similar rules. If you always receive a newsletter in your main inbox that you want to keep—but don’t want it sitting in your inbox as a distraction—select a keyword and automatically filter it to your “newsletters” label to revisit when you finish work. To do this within Gmail, scroll down to “labels,” then click the “+” to customize one of your own.
  • Outlook and Gmail organization do require a little more technical expertise, so if that proves too cumbersome, try lockrMail. A simple sign-up and a Chrome extension create an extra “shell” around your inbox. Now, when you fill out registration forms online, you can manage what gets through to your personal inbox by adjusting settings in lockrMail first. lockrMail’s Filter Library lets you set rules without having to think through the logic yourself. By selecting the desired filter—say, promotional discounts or order updates—you’ll receive the relevant emails directly to your Gmail, Outlook (or other email inbox), and lockrMail will block the rest automatically.

Tip #3: Keep a Tidy Inbox

Email organization is a bit like desk organization: it’s not “organized” if it’s all sitting in one pile. To keep a tidy inbox, keep the following in mind:

  • Turn to-do emails into calendar items. If you can ditch the email, copy and paste the content to your calendar as a reminder. This way, you’ll remember it at the appropriate time—without the clutter in your inbox.
  • Use tools outside your inbox. Gmail organization tools like Google Calendar and can synchronize with Gmail via Zapier, which means you don’t have to hold on to old emails if you’re using them to double as reminders. lockrMail also allows you to block emails while still enabling you to deliver them at a later date. 

Tip #4: Schedule Regular Time for Email Organization

It’s going to happen: emails will pile up on you. No matter how effective you are at email cleanup, you’ll end up with extras. 

Set recurring reminders either daily, weekly, or monthly within your Google and Outlook calendars. Think of this as “productivity batching”—you’re doing nothing else in that time except deleting unnecessary emails, folders, and spam. And if you’re using lockrMail, that time goes quickly: just toggle the appropriate switch and you’re opted out, or click a new filter from the library. 

You can also use lockrScan to batch unsubscribe from emails in your Gmail account. We recommend resubscribing to your most frequent emailers with your lockrMail address. Through lockrMail, you’ll have far more control (see Tip #6)—and you’ll leave each organization session with a better handle on your entire inbox.

One final tip here? When the timer is up, you’re done – even when you’re not finished. You can always adjust the time for the next session.

Tip #5: Learn How to Use Email Search

Your messy inbox creates the haystack. An individual email is the needle. With a cluttered email account and one email to find, good luck making it work.

Unless, of course, you know how to use email search. For example, within Gmail, you can do more than enter a keyword. Click the “advanced search” button on the right—it looks like a series of knobs and switches. You can add specific date filters, recipients, and even exclude some keywords to narrow things down.

In lockrMail, you can visit your dashboard, scroll down to “search,” and instantly look up a key phrase or sender name. You can also sort by “most recent” for a quick calendar-based overview, or “most emails” to see which sender is trying to clutter your inbox the most. You can also use the advanced search features to filter by delivery status or by groups you designate. 

Tip #6: Make Effective Use of Email Filters

You may be used to organizing emails in Outlook or using Gmail organization tools, but when you sign up to lockrMail, you can immediately use more advanced email filters to control what, when, and who gets through to your inbox. Think of it like a protective coating on your inbox: before anyone sends something to you through your lockrMail address, you get to determine when—and what—ultimately ends up in your inbox. Use Order Updates and Discounts filters for retail emails or add No Sponsored Content on newsletters to save yourself the one-off ads. 

email organization

With lockrMail, many of these tips take care of themselves. And you can do one better: managing what emails make it through to your inbox before you ever have to worry about cleaning it. Consider signing up for a free lockrMail account to stop the flow of junk into your inbox today.

Keith Petri

Keith is the CEO and founder of lockr. After a decade in the data management space, Keith founded lockr based on a deep desire to provide consumers with a means to take control over their own digital identity.