Top three ways to downsize your inbox clutter

Picture of an electronic mailbox
Jan Bowen Neilsen By Jan Bowen-Nielsen, Founder and Director of Quiver Management, Sponsored Content

24 August 2016

It’s no fun returning to work to face a multitude of emails – some of which you know are important, but most of which are not.  Here are some top tips from Quiver Management to help you overcome a productivity rut.

Sifting through the list to find those that require your immediate attention is time-consuming and often frustrating. It’s not a great way to start the week, and you’ll soon feel like you’ve never been away.

It’s a subject that comes up regularly in coaching sessions with partners and senior executives: the inbox overload conundrum that stifles productivity and reduces personal effectiveness. Quiver advocate taking action before you go away, to manage emails in the most appropriate way, as they happen.

1. ‘Out-of-office’

Have you considered using an out-of-office notice to let senders know that you are away? Matters of accounting and finance often cannot wait, so an ‘out of office’ message that includes instructions and contact details of who to get in touch with for assistance could drastically curb the number of emails waiting for you on your return.

2. Consider a more drastic step

You may have read about a more controversial approach to holiday emails, one which is encouraged by German vehicle manufacturer Daimler. They advocate automatically deleting all emails sent to their staff while on holiday.

If you set up your out-of-office notice to say that the sender's email is being deleted, that they should contact your colleague if it's really important, or get in touch with you on your return, this will leave your inbox completely free.

Just imagine if your first few days back were spent with an inbox which is as clear as your refreshed and focused mind, letting you concentrate on the tasks people need you for. Not such a bad idea after all?

3. For your eyes only

Granted a lot of accounting work is confidential and client relationships important so email deletion or redirection may well be inappropriate, in which case an email management process may be more effective. Try this:

Make some clear choices when you first look at each email then decide what to do next:

  • Bin it = delete it (for junk mail, and most emails which you have been cc'd into)
  • Delegate it = forward it to someone else (tasks which a member of your team can look after)
  • Do it = act now or plan for action (then archive it) - more on this shortly
  • Follow it up = temporary home (more substantial tasks which need dedicated thought)
  • Archive it = permanent home (important but non-urgent correspondence, for filing)

There, you've done it. Your inbox is mostly cleared, with the priority tasks nicely organised and the rest looked after by other members of your team. So, if you’re heading on holiday don’t let your emails get the better of you. Clarity of thought and mind is priceless and a great way to get the best out of yourself on your return.

Quiver Management have developed a Leadership Development Needs Analysis (DNA) approach to help you review your organisation’s training needs. For more information on the DNA tool or executive and business coaching get in touch with Quiver Management.

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About the author

Jan Bowen-Nielsen is founder and director of Quiver Management, a team of 19 qualified and highly experienced coaches and leadership development specialists. He has 15 years senior management experience from blue-chip corporations in the UK, Denmark and USA and 14 years as an executive coach, leadership trainer and change consultant. Jan has coached a large number of senior executives in FTSE 100 companies as well as numerous business owners and entrepreneurs. He is a Fellow of ILM, has been on the Advisory Board of EMCC UK for a number of years and regularly speaks at conferences and business events.

This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS.


  • Leadership and management

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