How to Simplify your Inbox

A teacher wears many hats.  She is always juggling three or four things at once.  If you teach, you know what I’m talking about and are probably saying to yourself “three or four, try ten or eleven!”.  It’s our responsibility to stay on top of things and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.  This can be very demanding and overwhelming at times, especially if organization falls to the wayside.  One of the tips I include in 5 Ways to Minimize the Stress of Teaching is to keep email organized.  I want to tell you today how I do just that.


Most email pages allow users to create categories or folders to organize emails.  I started using these folders two years ago to filter any and all emails I receive.  This tool is AMAZING and I’ve never looked back. Here’s how it works:


I have a category to fit every email I receive.  As I said before, I wear a lot of hats and so I have a LOT of categories.  They include: office, tech notes, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, emails from my principal, emails from my vice principal, emails regarding various councils I am on at my school and a few more.


As an email comes in, I decide what to do with it: filter now or filter later.


Filter Now

Some emails I can filter right away. For example, if I get an email about an upcoming assembly, I will make note of the date and time in my planner and then filter this email.  This kind of email doesn’t require me to respond, and so it doesn’t need to live in my inbox. You wouldn’t leave read mail in your mailbox, so why leave read email in your inbox?


Filter Later

So, why might I wait to filter an email?  Let me give you an example to explain. If I get an email from my department head asking when I can meet with him, I will keep this email in my inbox until I’ve responded.  Maybe I am reading it quickly before my next class and don’t have time to type out a response right away. Since I don’t want to forget to respond, I leave the email in my inbox as a reminder that I need to take action.  After I’ve responded, I will filter the email into a category. In this example, I have a category specifically for emails from my department head. When I filter emails, it feels like a weight is lifted off of my shoulder.  It’s one less thing I need to think about and remember to do. Once the email is filtered, it’s no longer taking up space in my inbox and distracting me from other things I need to get done.


It’s important to remember: filter later doesn’t mean filter never!


If you leave too many items in your inbox, you will get bogged down by them and it will be unclear which items you’ve tackled and which ones you haven’t.  This is how things fall through the cracks and that is no bueno.


At any given time, I will have no more than five or six emails in my inbox.  It’s my ongoing “to do list”. Before I leave work every day, I make sure my inbox is completely cleared.  This gives me a great sense of accomplishment and I feel relaxed knowing that no tasks are following me home or into the next school day.

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One thought on “How to Simplify your Inbox

  1. Pingback: 5 Ways to Minimize the Stress of Teaching – The Confident Classroom

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