A Simple Way to Keep Your Email Inbox Under Control

I’ve been reading Mark Hurst’s Bit Literacy and came across a tip that I’ve employed for eons but others may not have thought of before. In fact, I never even thought to share it (until earlier this week on Twitter during #prodchat) because it just seemed second nature to me now.

It’s a simple tip that will help you keep your email inbox under control, and you can make this simple adjustment now and begin to see it pay immediate dividends (whether you use your email inbox as a task manager or not.1

Here it is: Change your inbox settings so that the oldest message appears at the top.

Now this can’t be done on iOS devices yet – at least not in a way that I’m aware of – but if you do this on your main mail application either in its web interface (Gmail, for example) or in your email client (Outlook, Mail.app, Postbox, etc.) then the email you received least recently will be at the top. This will keep it in your face when you review your email and will help you deal with it sooner (which you should, since older email messages arrived in your inbox sooner than your most recent ones).

While this tip may not help you get to inbox zero (which is the wrong zero to chase anyway), it will help you deal with email in a way that it should be dealt with: first in, first out.

1 That said, you really shouldn’t use your email client as a task manager. There are applications that do that sort of thing far better: OmniFocus, Things, Asana, Flow, Doit.im, Astrid, IQTell…and the list goes on.