Email Organization – How to do it Right

Email Organization Best Practices (How to Do it Right)

Discover effective email management strategie to cut the time you spend managing email and reclaim many hours for more important tasks. 

catherine heath

January 5, 2024

10 mins read

Are you frustrated by how much time you spend on email? Wondering if there are any ways to organize your email better, and save time in the process?

You know – For most of us, email has become synonymous with problems, challenges, and a feeling of wasting time. But how else could you feel when facing overflowing inboxes, and countless messages that await reply?

But could it be any different? Well, of course, and the key to that is to follow certain email organization best practices. 

Good news – We’ve outlined them in this post.

Before we get to that, though, let’s understand your problem a bit better…

Typical problems with managing emails

Nearly two thirds of customers consider email to be the easiest method of communication with companies, but businesses are still struggling with email management. 

Email is rarely a joy to deal with, but it should be. If you adopt the right strategies then you can conquer inbox overload and strike the right balance of dealing with emails as they come in while not being a slave to your inbox. When teams work together to manage emails, they should spend less time fighting fires and more time helping customers. 

As teams grow, email can quickly spiral out of control with teams overwhelmed with email notifications. Without the right techniques to manage email, teams of agents tackling customer inquiries might miss important messages or step on each other’s toes. 

When multiple team members are managing the same inbox, email organization becomes a problem since you have too many cooks stirring the pot. By adopting some effective email management strategies, you could significantly cut the time you spend managing email and reclaim many hours for more important tasks. 

How do you organize emails effectively?

To effectively organize emails, you need to understand the needs of the inbox. For example, it’s not realistic for a customer service team to only check the inbox only once a day – you need to manage those emails as they come in. 

It also depends on what tools you’re using – for example, Gmail comes equipped with many features that help you organize your email inbox. And if standard Gmail is not enough, you can always opt for an extension such as Keeping, which expands the capabilities of your inbox as an email management tool. 

Keeping extension for Gmail

The challenges are greater when you have more than one person responsible for email management. A customer team inbox requires more complex strategies for organizing emails, which are usually only possible when adopting shared inbox software. 

What are some tasks you could eliminate from email organization?

Before you can really get to grips with actively organizing your email inbox, you might want to think about some tasks you could eliminate from your emails. 

Reading unwanted newsletters

First, you don’t need to open every email newsletter you’ve signed up to. If it’s a business team email account, your email inbox is for helping customers and shouldn’t be cluttered with personal emails anyway. Consider unsubscribing from unwanted promotional emails, which Gmail should help you with automatically. Removing these emails in the first place enables you to gain mastery over your inbox and avoids distracting you. 

Manually routing emails

Many emails arriving in a shared email address such as info@company.com could be better dealt with by different departments or individuals. Manually routing these emails takes up a lot of time and uses energy that could be more profitably spent elsewhere. You could automatically assign emails with common tags or keywords instead of opening every one to check. 

Assign emails to agents

Tackling every email at once

Regarding every email as having the same priority results in inbox disorganization. Being able to prioritize your emails into a hierarchy is a better way of managing incoming emails because you can decide which ones need to be dealt with immediately. More on this later.

How do you manage emails in an organization?

Managing emails in an organization is a little different to dealing with personal emails. For one, the reputation of the company is at stake and if your reply times are too long or your responses inconsistent, your customers may start to take a negative view of your business. 

Also, teams of agents are usually working on an organization’s emails, which usually means you need some specialized software to make this work effectively. Organizations can’t rely on basic email providers like Gmail alone. Keeping can help you in this regard as a streamlined team inbox for Gmail. 

Keeping -- team inbox for Gmail

Managing team email also means you can’t check your inbox only once a day, or the customer inquiries will start piling up, You can still avoid overwhelm by sharing the load among your team. 

Pitfalls to avoid when organizing team emails

Avoid these common mistakes when managing your team emails.

  • Too many cooks in the kitchen – repeating email organization tasks and having conflicting priorities when it comes to inbox management is a common problem with team email. Be clear about who is responsible for email organization and aim for delegation rather than duplication. 

  • Using email inappropriately – teams are often unclear about what they need to use their inbox for, such escalating a problem when you really need to switch to a more suitable channel such as the phone. Directly outline what email can be used for to improve email organization. 

  • Failing to use the right software – many of the techniques used to organize team email require the use of specialist shared inbox software. You won’t be able to upgrade your email organization best practices without employing a tool such as Keeping. 

Email organization best practices

Now, let’s jump straight to the email organization best practices you can follow for a tidier inbox. 

Set up an automatic reply

When you receive an email to your inbox you need some way of letting customers know that you are dealing with it. If customers don’t receive confirmation, they may end up emailing the inbox again which clutters up your inbox and makes it harder to organize emails. Automatic replies let customers know you’ve received their email and also an approximate wait time. 

Automatic replies also help you filter out emails that you don’t need, such as ones that could be redirected to a knowledge base. They suggest alternative channels, such as live chat, which could better serve the needs of your customers. 

Receipt confirmation in Keeping

Set up rules and automations

Any shared inbox software worth its salt will offer rules and automations that can make organizing your emails much easier. For example, if an incoming email hits your inbox, you can set up a rule to automatically tag it to keep your emails organized and group similar emails together. 

Rules and automations

You could also automatically assign emails to particular agents to improve inbox organization. Depending on particular keywords or email addresses, you could set up a rule to assign the new email without having to manually check incoming mail. 

Assign new emails to agents

As we’ve already mentioned, assigning emails to agents is key to email organization. There’s no point building a team to manage your inbox if you don’t use their collective capabilities. Your inbox will be a lot more organized if you can look at every email and see who is responsible for it. 

Instead of repeatedly opening and checking emails to see if they are being dealt with, you can feel assured that an agent is handling it. This drastically cuts the amount of time you need to spend on email organization, because everyone is sharing the burden and you eliminate busywork. 

Set priorities and statuses

Not every email is equal and you can assign a priority to a particular email to show your agents that it should be addressed immediately, or let them know that it can wait. This creates a sense of hierarchy within your inbox so agents don’t feel they have to tackle everything at once. 

A status also tells you whether an email is Open, Closed or Pending, so you can keep track of whether each issue has been resolved. Your emails are much more organized when they have status and you can automatically archive closed emails to tidy your inbox even further. 

Set priorities and statuses

Use labels and tags to sort emails

Instead of using folders like other traditional email clients, Gmail makes use of labels to help you organize your emails. You can assign multiple labels to an email which means you can sort it into more than one category and easily view emails that are related. You can set up filters to view only particular labels and assign labels automatically when an email hits the inbox. 

When it comes time to find a particular email again, you’ll be glad that you used labels to sort them. If you search for a certain label, you can find all emails within that category and perhaps rediscover important emails you forgot you had. Choosing different colors for your labels also helps you distinguish between them, feel more organized, and find necessary emails at a glance, streamlining email organization. 

Make use of canned responses

It’s a fact that when managing team email you’ll receive some of the same inquiries over and over again. Making use of canned responses is a valuable technique for organizing email because you can share them with team members, as well as insert them into an email whenever you’re replying to a repetitive question. 

Having a knowledge base library of canned responses takes your team email to the next level. Less time spent replying to repetitive email is more time that you can spend organizing your inbox using tried-and-tested techniques. 

Schedule time to manage email

Although it’s important to regularly respond to team email, you can schedule dedicated time to respond to and manage email. This means you can devote more time to tasks that will make email organization even easier such as analyzing performance metrics (First Response Time or Average Resolution Time), developing better processes and training your staff. 

If you condense the amount of time you spend managing email to certain periods of the day, you are more likely to be productive during this window. Procrastinating or performing unnecessary tasks get in the way of managing email effectively. 

Automatically archive emails

Emails that are no longer relevant have a habit of cluttering up your inbox and make it harder to organize emails. If you automatically archive emails that are older than a certain date you can rest assured that your current email view is up-to-date and relevant. Archiving emails is better than deleting them because it means you can find them again if you need them. 

Avoid inbox chaos by archiving emails you no longer need, which is usually after a conversation is marked Closed. It’s best not to delete them in case you need to refer back to an email during a future conversation, or in case there is ever a dispute or review of an agent’s performance. 

Block certain email addresses

Not every email in the inbox is wanted and it can be a good idea to block certain email addresses, reducing the clutter and noise. Of course you can manually delete every unwanted email that comes in, but that takes time and effort and doesn’t serve your email organization as well. 

You can use Gmail to block any email address so you don’t receive any unwanted emails, even if there isn’t an option to unsubscribe within the email itself. This keeps your inbox clean and reduces the time spent on email inbox management. 

Aim for inbox zero

If you aim for inbox zero this means you are following principles that are for rigorous email management, with the goal of keeping the inbox empty nearly all of the time. Inbox zero was laid down by productivity expert Merlin Mann in 2006, with the word “zero” not referring to the number of emails in the inbox but rather the proportion of time the person’s brain spends in their inbox. 

Some of the principles Mann proposes are to only value a handful of the emails that you receive, slavishly guard your time as a priceless limited resource, and accept the fact that less is more. It’s fine to send a one-liner as a response if it means a person gets a reply to their email. 

Only Handle it Once (OHIO)

When it comes to dealing with team emails, Only Handle it Once (OHIO) is a great principle to follow because you aren’t spending unnecessary time dealing with the same email. It goes hand-in-hand with the minimalism of the inbox zero approach because it means we avoid holding onto emails as a burden. 

Email organization becomes a whole lot easier when you follow the OHIO approach. This also means you avoid passing the back to another team member if it’s an email you can personally deal with. Tasks tend to grow more unmanageable, the longer you put them off.

Follow the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle)

Following on from the idea that some emails will be more important than others, the 80/20 rule (or Pareto Principle) refers to the idea that a small proportion (20%) of the work yields the majority (80%) of the results. Although this rule does not apply perfectly in every situation, it relates to email organization in that just a few of your emails will be worth your time. 

Although we can’t go around ignoring customers, we can shift our focus to the small proportion of customers whose emails will yield 80% of the results. Instead of wasting our time worrying about emails that don’t matter, we can spend more time on the ones that do. 

Eat the Frog

Another email organization best practice you can follow is a productivity method by Brian Tracy called Eat the Frog. If you eat the frog, it means that you choose your hardest email related tasks for the day and tackle them first thing in the morning. So, whichever of your emails seems the most challenging, work on that one first. 

That’s all there is to it. You’ll find yourself more productive in your inbox if you tackle the hardest task first. Don’t procrastinate and put it off until later. It gets the most difficult task out of the way so you don’t have an email hanging over you that needs to be dealt with eventually. 

Wrapping up

Being able to follow these email organization best practices helps you regain time that is otherwise wasted wading through emails, and making your hours spent managing the inbox much more productive. For team emails, managing the inbox directly impacts the bottom line and influences customer satisfaction. 

When multiple team members are involved in managing the inbox, your techniques have to become more sophisticated. Potential for confusion and error rises when you have to take into account the role of others in the inbox, as well as accepting the need to create a coherent customer experience. 


catherine heath

Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She often writes case studies, help documentation and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at https://awaywithwords.co.

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