As we all know our inboxes have turned into modern day filing systems – and just like in the ‘old’ days they can get chaotic and out of hand in no time. Attempts are made to control the unruly inboxes, but for the most part messages are swept into folders that act as catch alls for everything (unorganized amalgamations of incoherent mess – thank goodness for advanced find!).

Think of the benefits an organized, logical filing system would mean for you: referencing to emails that you’ve received, find and view attachments again, decrease your scrolling time, and if you ever need someone to go in and look for something, you will be able to point them in the right folder, rather than having them rummage through all your emails.

Now that you’re eager to change your unorganized inboxes, here are some tips to help you on your way.

Inbox: Your Inbox should be just that – an inbox, not a permanent storage folder by any means. Even if you have a ‘misc’ file off of your inbox, keep your inbox clean and tidy. If you receive emails on a subject that you’re in process of dealing with and you’re not ready to move them into a more permanent folder, create a ‘2do’ folder off of your inbox, from there group messages into subfolders.

This is a great way to keep organized and an easy reference to see what you have to do.

How to use it: When you receive an email for an ongoing or upcoming task, create a folder in your ‘2do’ folder with a name related to that task or client. Move the email into that folder, create a reminder or appointment if necessary, and —voilà!— you now have an organized inbox. When you receive more emails related to this task they can now go straight into the subfolder that you created. Once you have completed this task you can easily move all the contents to a permanent folder of your designation. The key is to keep on top of it and once you’re done with a subfolder in your ‘2do’ folder list, delete or move it. Keeping the folders after a task is over will hinder your organization and add to your electronic clutter.

This method will allow you to have an easy visual reference for work that has to be done, and even if some tasks are ‘back-shelved’ for the moment, you can still see them and keep them fresh in your mind. Once you are able to concentrate on the emails that are just coming in, you will be able to focus more on your business and less on your clutter.

Subfolders: Don’t be afraid to use subfolders, even subfolders in subfolders. Putting items into logical groups is a key to keeping your files organized.

How to use: For example – You may have a number of clients and a couple of different companies that you do work for, and each client/company will have multiple tasks, projects, instructions, etc. Under your Inbox, create a file for each company, under the company create a folder for each client, and under each client create folders for the number of different tasks that you perform.

Having a place to put messages as they come in is a key to staying on top of your tasks and messages. Inboxes have a way of getting large and overwhelming very quickly, putting these steps in place will help to control the unsightly messes and as a bonus keep you organized in the process.