Email : Best Practice to improve your productivity (especially when working from home)


I often get asked why I am not complaining that I get too many emails, like most people. Well, maybe I don’t or maybe the way I got organized works well for me.

As there’s a chance that the latter may the reason, I decided to share so that more of you also stop complaining.

So, here’s what works for me:


  1. Archive every email.
    Archive incoming as well as outgoing mail, all of them. You never know what will be useful, one day, and the mere thought “should I archive or not” takes time. So, just archive everything, and save time.
  • Do not file anything.
    With modern operating systems, search is quick and efficient. Filing just takes a lot of time, and whatever your filing system is, chances are you won’t find the email you so well filed today in 3 years from now.So, just drop all emails in one single folder, and safe time.
  • When you need an email, use search
    Make yourself comfortable with the search options you have, but chances are you’ll find just about any email in a couple of seconds, which is way less in my experience that the time other people spend on filing.

How to use tags to make sure that your emails get answered

  1. Archive your outgoing mail, and tag those that need answers.
    As indicated before, do not file your emails, just archive all emails in one single archive. But for each email you drop in the archive, ask yourself if you want to make sure to get an answer to your message. If so, tag (or flag) it. Personally, I only use a few types, like
    – customer service
    – product team
    – sales manager
    – in general
  • Check emails waiting
    Once in a while (I try to do it once a day or every other day while droping my sent mails into my archive) check if you got answers on the flagged emails, and take the appropriate action:
    – supress the flag of the tag if you already got an answer
    – write a follow-up
    – or talk to the person on whom you’re waiting
  • Use it in your 1:1 meetingsIf some of your team members frequently not respond, use your tag-list when meeting him, I bet they will start to answer your emails 🙂
  • People will naturally answer YOUR emailsOf course, as people figure that you always send follow-ups, chances are they will answer you more quickly to save everybody the hassle of your constant reminders.

Rules / Filters

Now, I have to admit, even though filters/rules are probably the feature that can help you save the most time, but they can be intimidating, and may need some tweeking in order to work perfectly.

Here’s what works for me:

1. Social network notifications

All notifications from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the likes go into a specific folder that I look at from time to time.

Chances are that you got the “important” once on your smartphone in the meantime anyway. Obviously, you want to tweak the settings of all your accounts so that you only get the minimum notification email…

2. Automated emails from various IT systems

All those go into a specific folder and I look at this one from time to time, depending on what I expect to be in there.

3. Travel confirmations

All tickets are sent to my TripIt account described here and filed into a folder with travel confirmations and tickets.

That way, in the rare event where I have to find any of these, I don’t need to search…

I get a notification though, as the subject is somewhat important.

4. Season’s Greetings

At this time of year, your inbox will overflow with hundreds of “Happy new Year” massages. Push them all in one folder, they don’t need your immediate attention (and you have your list of people that you need to respond to) !

5. Ecommerce

Your various order confirmations, shipping information and whatever from Amazon, ebay, Apple and the likes rarely need your immediate attention, so into a specific folder they go.

6. Out-of-Office

These emails obviously do not need immediate attention, so just file them away.

There’s also a nice side effect of having these in one folder: you can easily find the return dates for most people in one place…

With these few rules, I guess I cut by more than half the flow of my inbox.




whenever you get an email and get disturbed by it.

I can only see two exceptions :a) your paid solely for answering emails or b) for important and urgent emails.

Now, how do you get only notifications for important emails ?

Depending on your job, maybe you need rules, or like me, notifications only from some people are sufficient (in the Apple world that’s VIP notifications), that way you stay focused, but when your boss (or your wife) sends you an email you can react quickly if necessary.

Thanks to the (213) readers of this article !

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