September 28, 2018

How To Start A Productive Day: Tame The Inbox

“You’ve got mail!”

Once upon a time, seeing the new shiny notification on your inbox made us feel happy and excited about having a magical electronic message. Since email surfaced to the mainstream in the 1970s, things have drastically changed.

Fast forward in 2018, we’re drowning in email. To have a productive day, what are the best email management tips?

From Inbox Madness To Inbox Zero

Emails have been universally branded as huge productivity drags. Office email statistics are actually scary:

Did you also know that a study showed that the 80% of people unconsciously hold their breath while their inbox loads?

It’s no wonder us stressed workers have been searching for the best email management practices and tricks.


Life hacker Merlin Mann developed a rigorous schedule for reaching an maintaining an empty inbox called Inbox zero. To put it shortly, to aim for Inbox zero means to clear pending emails by using 4 approaches: delete, delegate, defer, and do.

Is Inbox Zero worth the Hype?

The Inbox Zero approach has drawn its supporters and detractors.

Is it really worth spending time clearing messages, which will be soon replaced by new once as the never-ending flow of emails goes on? Should all the energy spent be directed towards actually meaningful work?

Like most productivity advice, the answers are not clear-cut. It all depends on each person’s productivity habits, workload, motivation, and end goals.

Email Management For A Productive Day

In the end, Inbox zero, like any other email management advice, should aim at letting workers spend less time worrying about emails and more about doing.

If you don’t want your email to dictate your day, here are some best practices that can help you with that.

  • Don’t open the email box first thing in the morning

If you want to start on the right foot, don’t open your inbox as soon as you step in the office. It’s going to be hard at first: you might feel the pressure to check everything you missed while you were away.

Spend the first part of your day having a nice cup of coffee, talking to co-workers, and brainstorm your to-dos for the day. This will put you in a better, more motivated (and productive) mood.

  • Use templates for the email you send more often

If part of your job is cold emailing, or doing outreach, or simply answering customers’ requests, you can speed up the process by preparing in advance the most frequent messages you send. Then, all you have to do is to adjust and customize the template for the receiver. Time saved, guaranteed!

  • Turn off notifications when you’re “in the productivity zone”

We often speak about the importance of focusing on one task at a time and avoid multitasking. Since emails can arrive anytime in the day, and we might feel tempted to check it right away, turn notifications off altogether.

  • Establish rules

Try to establish rules for communicating with clients and colleagues. Make sure to let them know how often you’ll be able to answer, and also follow your own rules for as much as you can.

Technology To The Rescue

Too much tech can disrupt, but it can also help our productivity if used smartly. Check out this apps and tricks to help manager your email and time:


Boomerang is a popular app for Gmail that lets you schedule email response. You’ll never forget a follow-up email again, and you won’t have to interrupt your work to answer at appropriate times.

Hidden Gmail Hacks

Google recently rolled out a Gmail update with new graphics and, of course, new features. For example, it introduced “Smart reply” suggestions, that offers canned responses to emails, like “Great, thanks”, “No problem”, and “I appreciate this and will get back to you soon”.

What’s more, it’s now possible to pause the inbox, so that you won’t receive any email but the urgent ones.

Add-ons to project management tools (Asana, Trello)

Many emails become to-dos. There are several ways you can remember them without keeping your inbox open at all times. Gmail, for example integrates with Google Keep, while popular project management tools like Asana and Trello have developed add-ons for Gmail, to create tasks and cards directly from there.

Apart from the dedicated Gmail add-on, Asana also offers the possibility to create tasks and conversations by forwarding emails to the Asana workspace.

Escape Distractions With Timers

Finally, once you’ve decided to ignore your inbox, force yourself to focus on the task at hand by starting a timer while you work. Time tracking tools like Timeneye allow you to do just that:

One of my timers while working on an Asana task (for this blog post about email management)

Thanks for reading! Do you open your inbox fist things in the morning? Share your email management tips in the comments.

Cover image via

This post is a part of our  How to start a productive day series. Other articles you may like:

How To Start A Productive Day: Should The Worst Go First?


Marketing Manager at Timeneye. She’s passionate about technology and finding better, smarter ways to work. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and belting out tunes from Broadway musicals (although the neighbours don’t seem to appreciate that). Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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