3 tips to effectively manage email and spend less time in your inbox

Do you own your email inbox, or does it own you?

If you know the feeling of being buried in the chaos of a constant stream of incoming emails, you’re not alone.

And if you don’t have a structured system in place to manage your inbox, it’s not too late.

Here are three tips to get you back in control of your emails, minus the anxiety.

1. Get a handle on your current situation

How many emails are sitting in your inbox right now? 100? 1,000? 10,000? Whatever the number, your first step needs to be towards getting things under control, so you can better-manage your inbox from this point forward.

Don’t hold back: delete

If you’re starting with an overwhelming number of emails in your inbox, you need to be ruthless.

Use your email’s search function and search for common terms, like the name of a newsletter you subscribe to but haven’t had the chance to read for a while.

Consider searching your unopened emails to see what you’ve been neglecting. If you have months (even years) of unread newsletters from the same source, it’s time to identify why you subscribed in the first place, and make the decision to stop.

Create folders, filters and rules

Take advantage of the built-in shortcuts your email client provides to manage your email. If the bulk of your emails live in your inbox, think about what organization systems make sense to you, then apply those rules to your emails.

For example, you can create folders by client or work type or business function. Each can contain subfolders, so you know exactly where to find what you’re looking for.

You can also set up rules and filters for incoming emails, so they’re automatically routed directly to a specific folder in lieu of your general inbox. 

If you’re frequently on the CC or BCC line from your staff, set up a rule to send these to a specific folder. They often just add unnecessary clutter to your inbox so if they don’t add value, move them away from your inbox completely.

Take the time to learn what organizational style works best for you and use it.


Your inbox is likely clogged with daily industry and business news, subscriptions, announcements, newsletters, promotions, etc.

It’s time to take stock of those you actively read and want to continue receiving.

By opting out of those no longer necessary, you’ll remove the biggest source of inbox clutter. If you choose to keep active on an email list, update your email preferences to reduce the frequency or select a specific topic relevant to you.

2. Rethink your approach for communication at your firm

Getting to the root cause of why your inbox is overflowing will reduce the anxiety it’s creating. 

Don’t let your bad email habits cascade across your firm.

As a leader, model the behavior you expect of your colleagues and staff. Set a good example and implement standards for how your firm manages communication—putting good email etiquette into practice will help eliminate inbox aggravation for everyone.

If you haven’t already, encourage the use of instant communication apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace.

These tools move instant communication away from your inbox, to a place more suitable for quick chats and updates.

There are also plenty of online training and webinars available to learn best practices for managing email. Invest the time to educate yourself and your team and use the tools that will enable and improve communication flow.

3. Take action to find a better solution

It's time to ask if the fundamentals of email are changing

Take inventory and look for a more robust solution to improve your firm’s overall communication and productivity. By bringing your email into an accounting practice management solution such as Karbon, you and your team can stop using your inbox as your to-do list.

Karbon integrates directly with email clients (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) meaning you can automatically organize and assign your emails directly to colleagues, clients, or specific jobs.

This puts an end to forwarding emails to colleagues and copying information within emails into a separate workflow tool or spreadsheet.

Plus, having visibility into the communication between your staff and clients means you’ll have instant access to the full history of communication trails without the need for separate tracking or auditing.

Here are ways Karbon will benefit your inbox:

  • Bring your emails directly into your workflow

  • Gain clarity and visibility with ease

  • Streamline and consolidate your workflows

  • Say goodbye to the client chase

  • Eliminate noise

  • Stop falling victim to the ‘inbox trap’

Recommended reading: Discover how leading accounting firms are saving hours each week with Karbon.

Make the commitment and start small

Start small and choose even one new habit or best practice tip to incorporate into your day-to-day. Once you’ve put the change into practice, you can add additional improvements at a pace that’s right for you and your staff.

And don't get caught up in the idea of 'inbox zero'—it may not be realistic for you and will frustrate or potentially paralyze you from making positive progress.

Today’s technology and tools are designed to make managing your email easy and effective, so take advantage of them. 

Finally, remember to set yourself realistic goals at a realistic pace—you can’t fight email anxiety with anxiety.