Illustration: Andrea Chronopoulos

You vs. Your Inbox

5 Ways to Manage Your Email Without Losing Your Sanity

You don’t need to be chained to your inbox

Teresa Douglas
Published in
4 min readFeb 19, 2020

YYour inbox is your lifeline. It’s also a thief of your focus that often leaves you in an impossible bind. If you respond to each email as it comes in, you will constantly be interrupted and have to shift attention. If, on the other hand, you leave your inbox for too long, you might find yourself in a draining and never-ending game of catch-up. Worse, you risk missing important messages and then dropping the ball on expected replies. It’s a bad look.

What you need is a strategy. Here are five tools to help you create one.

Make appointments with your inbox

Scheduling specific, recurring blocks of time to deal with email can be hugely helpful. Many people benefit from scheduling two email blocks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Others prefer a few scheduled email intervals throughout the day. Find what works for you, and let your coworkers and clients know when and how it’s best to reach you.


If your job involves a significant amount of email, you may benefit from triaging your unread messages when you start your workday. Take care of emergencies first, then move to the rest of your emails in a way that makes sense for you.

In general, if you can deal with an email in fewer than five minutes, you should answer or delegate it as soon as you open it; it is most efficient to read something once and take care of it immediately while you are thinking about it.

If you won’t be able to compose an answer that day, send a quick response stating that you received the email and are working on it. If possible, include an estimated time frame for your full response. Then be sure to add that email to your to-do list.

Tag ‘em

Find a simple way to denote emails that require further follow-ups, whether that means starring them or otherwise tagging them with a label of your choosing.



Teresa Douglas
Writer for

Mexican Yankee in Canada. Remote work speaker, manager. Book: Working Remotely: Secrets to Success for Employees on Distributed Teams