Does it feel like managing email is controlling your life? Find yourself checking your email every 10 minutes during your waking hours? We all lead busy lives, and with increased pressure on productivity, we’re all looking at ways to save time.

If you’re like me, you probably receive more than your fair share of email — I receive more than 100 emails a day on average — so how do you cope with managing email so it doesn’t overwhelm you?

I have a simple system that has worked for some time, and I’d like to share it. Basically, I tend to use my inbox as an email task list, with the majority of my day-to-day activities found here. I check my email every hour or so, depending on my schedule. I read new emails, then sort through older ones that still remain in my inbox.

“The five Ds” is what I call my approach to managing email. As I traverse my inbox, I complete one of five actions with every email:


If the email requires a response or an action, and it will take me less than a minute or two, I’ll do it straight away. Otherwise, I leave it in the inbox for a second perusal.


Many of the emails I receive are related to tasks that my business is undertaking. If the email can be handled by a team member closer to the digital marketing project or topic at hand, I’ll delegate the response to that person. It’s better to have one single point of contact with the client, after all.


If the action or response is going to take longer than the time I have right now, I’ll defer processing it and leave it in my inbox for later. Typically I set aside at least 20-30 minutes per day for those larger responses or tasks.


If I’ve dealt with the email or there’s no further action required other than me reading it, I’ll drop it into the appropriate subfolder. I typically keep my folder structure minimalist, with just about all email ending up in my “year” folder — for example, “2021” for that year’s emails. That way, your inbox is compact and tidy.


If the email is spam or holds no future value for archiving, I’ll just delete it. I find I have hundreds of automated messages or mailing list emails that I really have no need for, once they have been read or actioned.

I have been known, however, to hoard emails; the many gigabytes of email I’ve sent and received over the last decade — and still have — proves this.

I tend to keep all emails relating to projects or clients indefinitely. There’s legal obligations for taxation and record keeping purpose. I find though it’s harder and more time intensive to sort which ones I must keep, versus which ones I can delete after 5-7 years. I’d rather just archive them all.

Managing email: final words

If you’re nodding your head and thinking, “That sounds a lot like Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done system,” you’d be correct. I haven’t read the book personally, and the approach is my own, but if you’re interested in learning GTD, then I’ve heard it’s a worthwhile read.

If you find that you treat your inbox like a task list, I’d encourage you to trial this method of managing email. Let me know what you think.

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