Email is the second most common method of communication after the telephone, and some people receive hundreds of emails each day. Unless you have a system for managing your Inbox, you soon end up with email chaos. In this article we provide some helpful guidelines and tips that will let you take control of your email.

Email messages can usually be divided into 3 main categories:

  1. those that don’t need an answer or action,
  2. those that you only have to forward or reply to, and
  3. those that demand some kind of action by you.

The first category is email you may want to keep for information purposes, or just delete once you have read it. The second might only require a polite answer, and the third category could be a task or to-do item.

There are ways in which you can organize these different types of email efficiently.

1. Create (and use) folders.

You might think of email as just simply messages, but often (especially in a work situation) emails can contain information just like important documents do, and some emails may also have documents attached to them. As such, these kinds of emails ought to be treated in an appropriate way so that your email account becomes a document archive, not just a place for messages. In the same way that you keep your physical documents sorted in hanging folders or in binders, you can create a logical set of email folders and subfolders.

Even if you don’t think of your email as documents, organizing your messages in folders will make them much easier to locate later on, and will help keep your Inbox empty.

Runbox makes it easy to consolidate and manage all of your email in one place so you don’t have to log in to several different email services. With Runbox, folders have some very useful features. Each folder has a set of preferences of its own, and one of the things you can do is associate an email address with a particular folder.

This means, with all of your messages in one place, you can create one main folder for work-related email, associate your work email address with it, and then create sub-folders for various projects inside this folder. In the same way, you can create folders for many other things such as family communication, financial correspondence, and associations you are a member of etc…

You can even create identical folder structures for your Inbox and Sent folder, to make managing and searching your email easier. Organizing your sent messages will also help you keep track of email that requires some action by the recipient and hence act as reminders.

To find out more about folder management, see our Webmail Help section.

2. Decide what do to with incoming email.

As soon as you have read an incoming email, decide as soon as possible what to do with it according to the following rules:

  1. To be deleted?
    If yes, delete it immediately.
    If it is junk mail, chain letters, unbelievable offers, delete it without opening it. Sometimes just opening an email can causes it to load images from remote servers, and these will indicate to the sender of the junk mail that your address is valid. Do not open attachments from someone you do not know, unless the source is safe.
  2. To be forwarded without any further action from you?
    Do it right away!
  3. To be kept for reference only?
    Move it to the appropriate folder.
  4. To be answered, and nothing more is demanded from you?
    Create the reply as soon as possible, and send it.
  5. To be handled as a task?
    These messages are the most time consuming, and will often be put on ”the waiting list” or calendar, and so you have to decide when to deal with it.

3. Sort your email for keeping.

Using your folder structure make it easy to sort both your incoming and sent messages. However, sometimes you might want to leave a message in the Inbox as an immediate reminder that there is something you need to do related to that email. If you use the Flag menu option in the Runbox Webmail, the message will stand out even more as it will have a coloured flag next to it.

However, it is important to deal with it as quickly as possible as a large number of messages in the Inbox can get confusing, and tasks may be missed. As soon as you have dealt with the email in question, move it to the appropriate folder.

For more on managing messages, see our Webmail Help section.

4. Check your email on a regular basis.

Check your mail on a planned, regular basis, rather than letting it continuously interrupt your other work. You will rarely need to reply immediately to an email, and this means you don’t really need the audio indicator on that tells you when new email has arrived. Knowing when to check your email will let you work uninterrupted and also use email more efficiently.

5. Use filters to keep your Inbox clean.

Learn how to use the Filter section in Manager to sort incoming email automatically. By using these functions you can reject email containing viruses, block unwanted senders and sort or reject suspected unsolicited junkmail (spam), as well as sort legitimate email in a number of different ways. By adding filter rules that match certain criteria such as sender address or subject contents, you can sort email into different folders and make Runbox do some of the archiving for you automatically.

For more about filters, see our Filter Help section.

6. Read all of the email on a particular topic or subject before you start replying.

Read all of the messages on a particular topic or subject before you start replying. One of the other recipients may have already taken care of the action or answered the question. The electronic discussion may have progressed, or there may be no further action needed.

7. Let the subject field tell what the message is all about.

When creating an email, use the subject-field for telling the receiver what the email is about. This is for three reasons (at least):

  1. You will make the situation easier for the recipient.
  2. Very often, the recipient of the email will want to give you an answer using the Reply-function. This will usually leave the subject line the same, and this means you will easily detect which conversation the email belongs to.
  3. It will make searching for messages easier at a later time.

You might also want to tell the recipient to keep the subject the same when answering.

8. Keep the content clean — one topic at a time.

To make email life simpler for both the recipient and yourself, keep each email to one topic so that it is clear what the email is about. If you don’t, sometimes people will forget there is more than one thing they need to deal with or reply about. It is much better to send another email dealing with another topic.

9. Use the contact/group function.

Use the Contacts section to create nicknames and groups for people to whom you often send email. This will populate the nicknames/groups list in the Compose screen and enable the autocomplete function, letting you enter addresses much more quickly into the recipient fields and reducing the chance of mistyping an address. When an address is mistyped, anyone who responds to all recipients will also send out email with the bad email address.

Read more about Contacts in our Help section.

10. Delete unwanted email periodically.

To keep your mailbox clean it is necessary to delete junk email that ends up in your Spam and Trash folders. By default, messages in these folders are removed automatically after a few weeks, so it’s recommended that you scan your Spam folder periodically and report any misclassified messages as “Not spam”. This will move the messages to your Inbox and also prevent similar messages from being classified as spam in the future.

You can also manually empty these folders by using the trash bin icons next to the folder names in the list. When deleting email, be aware that attachments will also be deleted. Make sure you save any attachments you want to keep in Runbox Files or on your computer.