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5 Quick Tips on Managing your Email Inbox

Lately, I have been noting down ideas of how to be the most efficient and organized even if it doesn’t look like it.

Doesn’t everyone aspire to have this as their desk?

But unfortunately it is not realistic to have a constantly clear, and tidy desk.

In fact, in the book Messy: The power of disorder to transform our lives it mentions how little piles can be neater and much more efficient than trying to categorize and archive everything all the time.

How interesting…“, the little piglet inside Sherry squealed…


(In the way that you think that is.)

And so I put it into effect.

I did some of what they said would be the most efficient way to be organized and still stay on top of stuff, and let me tell you IT WORKED.

(Of course, some things I was already doing before and did not need to be re-told).

The main premise before starting, is this:

Forget clean desks without a single piece of paper and no messy piles.

Come to terms with the fact that you WILL have a bit of a ‘mess’ and your desk is not going to be spic and span.

If you can get over this, you’re golden.

These 5 tricks are going to work for you.

1. Create neat piles of folders and review/organize them periodically

I do this at work. I have folders in various colours, and each folder is what I am currently working on as a project.

Every 6 months, I review those folders, and wham, toss the whole pile into recycling if the project is over and I no longer need to care.

This, apparently is the best way to handle filing and archiving of documents and projects instead of taking that project, and filing it away.

You just end up accumulating papers upon papers….

I have found however, that while I am great at paper management, I am not so hot at DATA management.

I am a data hoarder.

I love to save everything, even projects from back when I was in college (when do I ever need to refer back to these things again?)… and I love to save it because for me, data is cheap and so minimal in terms of space. I mean I can hold TERABYTES of data in my hands.

This is where I have realized that hoarding gigabytes of photos of Little Bun is really silly. I don’t need 50 photos of him just because he has a different expression or something. I need to start deleting. Stat.

I need to do something similar but data-wise.

2. Create 1 – 3 folder steps deep MAXIMUM

No more than that. Throw everything into one, to THREE folders maximum. Any deeper that you have to dig, omg, forget it.

My main drive holds general folders like:

  • Government
  • Taxes
  • Car
  • Home

And within each folder, I have sub-folders like under Taxes:

  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Then within each year, I have sub-sub-folders:

  • Scanned Receipts
  • Tax Software Program Year used
  • Actual Papers or Files Submitted

That’s it. No deeper than 3 levels.

That, apparently is far more effective than trying to do things like go even farther and make sub-folders like under Receipts for Medical, Car, Income, Investments, etc.

You can apply this to paper folders too — don’t archive too deep! You’ll never find it!!!

3. “Search” not organization, is your friend

In line with number two, it is easier just to keep your documents less folder-centric, and learn how to name your files properly like:



That way when you search it, you can just type in “2017*Taxes*Medical” and you will hit on what you need for everything matching those keywords.

Search goes far faster than clicking on each folder and trying to remember where you filed that dang receipt.

4. Zero inboxes do exist

My personal Inbox is zero and clean and I have multiple email inboxes, which is the trick!

I have an email box JUST for shopping online. I go there, I see all my returns, my purchases, etc.

I have my other email box JUST for emailing friends, family, etc.

I have another email box JUST for my work — so I know it is professional.

All in all, I have 5 email inboxes I use for different purposes, and it TRULY separates it out in my mind so I am easily able to just review what is in there to see if I have to do anything (or feel free to happily ignore it).

My main email inboxes are:

  • Personal – Friends & Family
  • Work – Career, professional
  • Shopping Online (and returns)
  • Spam – When you sign up for things, you give this email address and then ignore it
  • Online selling – Kijiji or Craig’slist stuff so people don’t know my real address (have to protect yourself)

If I have an email sitting in there in one of those boxes, it means I MUST do something with it — reply to my mother, schedule a transfer and pay my credit card bill.

If I have the email archived, it means it is done.

I can easily see what emails came in for what inbox, and know if it is important (Work! What happened there?!) or not important at all (Spam, Online Selling, Shopping Online…).

Lastly, my favourite invention ever is Google SNOOZE.


This has changed my life because it bothered me greatly that I would see in my Personal Inbox, that I have to pay a credit card bill but it is due in a month.

I don’t pay my bill off right away because I want to collect interest on my money as long as possible.

I usually schedule the bill payment ahead of time but sometimes I don’t know where my money will be in 3 weeks (I like to shuffle my money around – Read: Shuffling my money around for maximum interest), so I can’t really schedule a payment until I am certain.



I snooze that mofo until a week before the payment is due, and then the email pops up saying: Snoozed 3 weeks ago, and I take care of it right away.

In the meantime for those 3 weeks, I had a beautifully clean and clear Inbox.

5. Embrace a little disorder in your life

You know how you pack everything away, file it all nicely, and then a month later think:

What the heck did I do with that [insert lost filed item here]…….?

It is OKAY to be a little messy.

It is OKAY to have a little (little!!!!) pile of papers rather than a huge, messy, overflowing desk.

I am super visual as a person. I cannot understand anything if people don’t sketch it out on a pad of paper for me because I can see it better than I can explain it.

That means, I navigate by landmarks when I drive (“Oh turn left at the Chicken Wing Shack”), and when I put a piece of paper down somewhere in a bright pink folder, and I put that folder on my desk, I remember exactly where I put that paper.

Now, you make me file that paper into a neat white folder, in a filing cabinet…. and I’m like:

Where do I file that paper?

And under which category?

Car? Government? Taxes?

See, it could be a kind of mixed category kind of paper!!

It could have been let’s say a tax document that is related to my car or something like that — where would I have put it properly to make sense?

And that’s it.

With these 5 little tricks, my life is so much easier.

Any tips you’d like to share? I’m all ears.


  • PP Gal

    Organizing digital files (especially photos) is a 21st-century challenge that makes me want to go back to medieval period and only worry about the mundane things like baking happily in a far flung cabin.

    How do you plan to back up your files? Encryption. Backing up the backup. Clean slate (pretend to accidentally delete everything).

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