Organizing Your Email

Using a “hot file” system, you can organize your email inbox into action-oriented subfolders that mirror your paper filing system.

Make sense of your inbox by creating sub-folders for different kinds of messages.

Few things at work can feel more overwhelming than email. We can’t control when it comes in, we can’t control how much comes in, and we can’t control what people are asking us to do in their messages. In the world of work, email often amounts to just one more set of to-dos. If emails only needed to be read, life would be pretty easy. We could get through our inboxes pretty quickly. But very few emails need only to be read and then closed. Oftentimes you either need to respond or take additional action. In an effort to regain control of your email, here are some strategies and techniques to put you back in the driver’s seat.

All email programs allow you to create folders or labels which can help sort and separate your messages. This is essential to creating an easy-to-use system for your inbox.

The first thing that you want to do is take care of the actions that are required in your inbox. If you set up a “hot file” system, you can sort and separate your emails into action categories that will make it easier to address the tasks each email represents.

Instead of seeing an inbox full of messages, each one requiring different types of actions, you can instead create a series of “hot folders.” For instance, you can sort all the calls that need to be made based on the emails into a “Calls” folder; all of the e-bills into another folder; a third folder could be for things you need to research online, etc. Once you start separating your emails into actions, it’s much easier to actually process them, rather than seeing them in a big jumble in your inbox.

Some of your new folders will be “hot folders”—containing messages that require action; others will be archival folders—those where you can file important messages that don’t actually require any action. As you are creating these new subfolders, try to label them in a way that mirrors the rest of your filing system. If your e-folders match the folder structure you’ve created for your paper files, it will be easier for you to find things when you need them later.

If you’re wondering how to implement these strategies, we’d be happy to chat with you. Contact us for a complimentary strategy session by going to

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