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Stop Using Your Inbox as Your To-Do List

One challenge you have probably faced is determining how best to manage the tasks that are delivered via email. With the rate and speed that email collects, it is incredibly easy to lose track of an important email and miss a necessary task. The key is to stop using your email inbox as a to-do list. Here are three email management strategies from this NYC Professional Office Organizer to help you get started.

Step 1: Recognize the need for a separate to-do list.
There are 100’s of messages received daily to sort through and process and your inbox is missing key features that only a to-do list can offer. You continually must sort through emails as tasks are not always mentioned in the subject line. One email may include 5 or 6 tasks and keeping track of what has been done will get complicated. Many email programs don’t allow you to sort your emails in any way but alphabetically by sender or by date received, which means it’s hard to group tasks together. You can’t prioritize those emails that include the most important task or sort them by due date. Recognizing the need for a better system will help you make the transition.

Step 2: Decide on a task management system.
It doesn’t matter which one you choose, there are so many options! You know yourself best. You could use one or more of these tools…. a paper planner, Outlook, Google Calendar, if you want to save task dates on a calendar. You can also try an online project management system like Asana or Trello, or a to-do list app like ToDoist or Remember The Milk.

Step 3: Create a strategy to flow tasks into your system.
When you read an email, instead of just leaving it in your inbox to remind yourself of the task or mark it unread or flag it so you come back to it, immediately add it to your task management system. Be as specific as possible when adding the task, making sure to include all important notes and details like specific deadlines from the email. If an email is sent to you asking you to complete a project, you can now take those details and break them into smaller tasks to add to
your task management system. The key here is adding the tasks as the emails come in. If you wait to do it later, the email may get lost in the shuffle and you’ll begin to miss deadlines.

As your tasks are shifted out of your inbox, you can allow your email to return to its original purpose of communication. Remember that email also works as a way to leave a paper trail of conversations that are all time and date stamped. When you can remove the tasks from your email, not only will your inbox be more manageable, but you will find yourself less anxious over missing important deadlines and skipping tasks.

Want more email management tips? Download my free checklist here! For more hands-on office organizing strategies and support, reach out to your NYC Professional Office Organizer today.

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