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The Best Way to Organize Your Emails: Just Archive Them

Our OHIO article provides a quick summary: Your inbox is not an archive. It’s not a bin. It’s your inbox!

If you have thousands or hundreds of emails in your inbox, it is easy to get lost. It’s easy to lose sight of the important things. It is much more difficult to find specific emails. Your mail client works slower (even if you access it through a browser such as Gmail). And it can take up storage space if your phone has Apple Mail or Outlook.

Bottom line: It’s not a good idea to keep all your emails in your inbox. There are many good reasons.

Keep this in mind when you receive an email. You need to reply to/forward it, make it a task, schedule a meeting, and then delete it or archive it. Here are some tips.

Where to archive your emails

All emails should be saved to an Archive folder. You should not put them in one of many hundred folders. Instead, they should be placed into one Archive Folder.

This is quite bold, so we need to be a bit more specific.

First, it takes time to create and maintain a hierarchy of folders. This is time that could be better used for handling your email correspondence. It can be difficult to determine where an email should go. For example, a colleague might send an email about why they missed a deadline for a project. Should that email go in the folder for that project or another? What is the folder for this person? The lessons learned folder? Decision-making can be both time-consuming and draining. It can be frustratingly difficult to locate emails later on, even though they may be in one of many folders. Each folder contains hundreds of emails.

Because you don’t need to use any decision-making or thinking resources, a single archive makes it simple to move emails from your inbox. Simply handle the mail and place it in your archive. This process is simple enough, especially when you have to keep up with an ever-expanding list of emails. Any difficulty or irritation will become more severe when it is scaled up. So something minor that is annoying or time-sucking for one email can be a major annoyance for hundreds.

This will provide some relief from the frustration of a folder system, while others will have to scream in pain at the thought of losing their meticulously designed, well-organized, and logical folder structure. This is going to be difficult for you if that’s the case. Even though we understand your pain, we are confident that the long-term benefits from one archive will outweigh the inconvenience of changing your system.

How to Archive Emails in Bulk

You may think it’s obvious that you can archive your emails by simply moving them to your Archive folder. It can be difficult to move emails individually if there are hundreds or even thousands of them in your inbox. You should find a way of moving them all in bulk.

It’s simple to select bulk mail if you use a client such as Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook. Scroll down to select another email by clicking on the email in your inbox. You will see all emails between the first and second ones. Drag and drop the emails into an archive folder or use the Archive option. The standard Archive icon looks similar to a traditional cardboard archive container, just like the Save icon on a floppy disk. This button is available in Outlook and Apple Mail (both client apps and mobile apps).

You can use the Outlook client to create Quick Step actions which mark all selected emails as read and move them to the Archive folder.

You can archive all your emails if you decide to start over. Although we can’t say if this is the right thing to do it will ensure that you have an empty inbox quickly.

You can click the checkbox at top of a webpage to select one page from a web interface such as Gmail.

After you have selected your emails, click Archive.

You can’t use a keyboard shortcut to select all emails in your Gmail Inbox. However, * + A will select all emails on the page. After selecting all emails on the page, a message bar will appear over the emails. This will give you the option of selecting all emails in your inbox.

To select all emails in your inbox, click this link. You can cancel your selection by changing the message bar.

How many emails should you archive?

It is up to you to decide how many emails you wish to archive at one time. As we have said, an empty inbox is not only temporary but also almost impossible to archive. Because anyone can send you something, you are not in control over what gets into your inbox. Even if your inbox is empty, it will not stay empty. It’s a good goal to set because it takes some pressure off your shoulders to have an empty inbox even for a brief time. It won’t stay empty. This is why managing your inbox is a process and not a goal. You don’t necessarily have to archive an email. If you don’t want to keep it, it can be deleted. This is a great option to save space.

Instead of focusing your efforts on every mail you have in your inbox and archiving or deleting them all, set achievable goals that will decrease your email stress. You are the only one who knows what will reduce your email stress. Here are some examples:

  • There is no high-priority mail left at the close of the day
  • In your inbox, no mail older than two working days
  • No mail from your staff/manager/customers (delete as appropriate) at the end of the week

Identify the emails that cause you stress. As a priority, handle and archive (or remove) these emails.