Simple tricks and automation for your email inbox

Now I would make a bet that no matter what your profession, one of the first things you do when you start work, is that you open your email. It’s also probably one of the things that you spend time on your phone doing and a task which is hugely time-consuming.

When being approached by potential new clients I have been asked to complete the following request:

Client: “I spend A LOT of time on email, is this something that you can manage for me?”

Me: “No.”

Not because I want to be unhelpful, or because I don’t want the work, but because I believe that this is something that you can learn to manage yourself, if you have the right tools. I am currently monitoring nine email inboxes for myself and clients’ so I know that this is possible!

Good practice

1. If you use folders, use very high-level folders.

I did a half-day session with an outlook user recently whose inbox was out of control and she spent a lot of time trying to find things or simply just staring at the screen as she found it too overwhelming. She had about 50 folders and sub-folders coming off her inbox. That does not work. You’ll spend too much time trying to find things. Think high-level and think long-term.

2. You don’t have to stick to the same system in every inbox.

As I mentioned, I look after nine inboxes. For a couple of my clients I simply use ‘Complete’ and ‘Reference’. For my own KeyboardSmash inbox, I auto-filter into separate sub-folder client accounts. When I finish working with the client, I move all those emails into the header client folder. For another client I just manage two tasks, so I have a folder for each of those when they are complete.

3. If you don’t need to keep it, just delete it.

You don’t need to be nostalgic about all of your emails. There are many that can go.

4. Unsubscribe to junk you don’t read

Seems simple, “ah but I just don’t have the time.” Thanks to GDPR it should now be really easy to unsubscribe to all emails that you are just not reading. Take two minutes (remember that blog I wrote about two minutes?!) to unsubscribe to those emails. You don’t have to do them all in one go, just do a couple a day and it will eventually go down. And breathe…headspace.

5. If you do want to read it when you have time, set up a rule to divert it away from your inbox.

I talk more about this below but this is truly one of my favourite tools. Auto-organising your inbox so that you are in control of what you read and when is truly the answer for transforming your inbox.


I’ve just focussed on what I think are the two main email clients:


The tools that I use most on Gmail are filters and labels. I find that lots of unread emails in my inbox makes it hard to prioritise and is overwhelming; we use precious time and energy thinking and worrying about what to action next. Filters help to organise your mail automatically into folders (on Gmail they are called labels) so that you can decide when to action certain categories of work.

At around 12 minutes long, this is a great video that takes you step-by-step through setting up filters and labels on Gmail – I’ve vetted the whole video so I’m not sending you on a wild goose chase! The way that I use filters and labels finishes about 8.40 but there is one more function that you may find useful if you watch until the end.

Example: in my KeyboardSmash email inbox, I have my clients email automatically filter into different client folders so that I don’t miss anything and can work on their emails when I have allocated time for it, rather than getting distracted whilst I am working on something else.

It is not necessarily about moving stuff you don’t want to read (it works for that as well!) it is about categorising it so that you know where to find it when you want it.


Now I am not going to lie, I am a Gmail girl through-and-through. But I do manage 3 Outlook inboxes, so it is something that I am on board with! Plus, I do love to learn J

The tricky thing with Outlook is that the way it works is different if you access Outlook email through Office 365 on your browser, if you access on your Mac or on your PC and what version you have if you bought the Office Suite outright.

This quick 2-minute video is for Outlook 2016 and is a great step in the right direction to setting up rules for your Outlook inbox(es):

I keep everything in my inbox, is that ok?

I’ll always say, if it works for you, don’t change it!

Search functions on the latest Outlook (not so much Outlook 365 on browser) and on Gmail are so good, if you work well with it all in one place, do stick with it.

But if you’re inbox isn’t working for you, take a look into the above. Let me know how you get on and if I can help…get in touch.


© 2020 KeyboardSmash. All rights reserved | Sarah Newland trading as KeyboardSmash | Designed by Sarah Newland | Photography by Kirsty NorthoverT&C's and Privacy Policy.


Phone: 07809766241

Location: Bristol / North Somerset