Guilty of a cluttered inbox? Manage your e-mail more efficiently with these productivity tips from a pro.

By Rachel Sylvester
Updated April 18, 2019

We all rely on e-mail for instant correspondence—and assurance that our Amazon package is, in fact, on its way—yet it's safe to say the sight of a cluttered inbox is an immediate stressor. Regularly checking your e-mail is an everyday task that's impossible to avoid, and no matter how diligent you are in hitting "reply all," maintaining a tidy inbox is easier said than done.

In an effort to better manage our unruly inboxes, we asked productivity expert and founder of Inkwell Press, Tonya Dalton, to share her top time-saving e-mail hacks that'll bring us that much closer to Inbox Zero.

1. Check Mail for Only 15 Minutes at a Time

According to Dalton, you can maximize your productivity by checking e-mails in short, 15-minute bursts. "You'd be surprised as how many e-mails you can read and respond to in a short span of time when you check your inbox in batches," she says. "The key is to set a timer, so you know when your 15 minutes are up and when it's time to move on to other work."

2. Ruthlessly Unsubscribe

Individually deleting irrelevant newsletters and sales notifications may give off the illusion of productivity, but rifling through the same junk mail week after week only increases your e-mail inefficiency. "By law, all newsletters must include an unsubscribe link," says Dalton. "Take the time to click that link and to submit your unsubscribe request. It's a 10-second investment that will pay off in the form of a cleaner inbox." Dalton also notes that an e-mail unsubscribe app or service isn't necessary to rid your inbox of clutter. "Many of those programs actually end up selling your e-mail address to other companies to keep them in business," she adds.

3. Touch E-mails Only Once

Dalton suggests taking action as soon as you open up a message by considering the 5 D's: Do, delegate, delete, defer, and designate. "Quickly do the e-mails that require less than two minutes of action, and delegate those that require action on someone else's part," she says. Immediately unsubscribe from and delete messages that require no action, and defer those notifications that require more than two minutes of action to complete. Lastly, file e-mails that contain pertinent information to a separate folder so you can location them more easily in the future.

4. Draft a Canned Response

If you receive multiple messages containing similar requests, Dalton advises writing out a default canned response that you can adjust and modify slightly with each e-mail response. "Save the default response as one of your e-mail signatures so you can easily auto-fill the body of your e-mails," she says.

5. Create an Alias Account to Sort Mail

Many e-mail platforms (Gmail included), allow you to create alias accounts that all feed into a single inbox. "I set up my alias accounts to feed into a single folder," Dalton says of the tactic she employs for organizing bills and other critical financial documents. "I don't deal with any of those e-mails until Friday morning, when I dedicate time to sit down and sort through all of my finances."