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Posted By IslOrgs Team

by Karen Simon, Island Organizers

     Keeping the Email Inbox uncluttered is one of the biggest challenges my clients face. They keep all of their email in the Inbox because they don’t want to forget to do things. But then, it gets out of hand because there’s just too much and it comes too fast! Here’s one method I teach to help them to organize and manage their email to get things done. At Island Organizers, we call it the Hot Action File method.

1)   Create a set of Action Folders with Action Labels. For example: To Call, To Reply, To Buy, To Attend, To Read, To Pay, Waiting for Reply (Hint: putting a “1” in front of each folder name will sort the folders together and at the top of your folder list – e.g. 1Waiting)

2)   Immediately delete unwanted email or spam

3)   As you review each item in your Inbox, put any appointments or events on your calendar. If you need to keep the email with the details, file it in the To Attend folder; otherwise, just delete it. Tickets or receipts for events go in To Attend also (they’ll never be lost again!)

4)   Put any bills into To Pay folder, Email subscriptions go into To Read. Discount Coupons or items to order go in To Buy. Anything requiring a call or response goes into To Call or To Reply.

5)   Orders waiting for items to arrive, email threads waiting for a response from others, keep those items in Waiting for Reply.

     Now you’re ready to work. Psychologists say that completing like-tasks together is much more efficient than hopping from one task to another. Open your To Call folder and make the calls. Open the To Reply folder and do all your replies at once. You’ll be surprised at how much you get done by doing similar tasks together!

     The Hot Action File method helps you to manage your email in smaller time slices, too. You can break up the process by setting aside time just to "Clear the Box."  Later, when you have a bit more time and are ready to tackle the To-do's, you don't have to deal with the Inbox, you can just go straight to your Calls folder or your Reply folder and get those done.

     Be sure to review each folder each day. Open the To Pay and Waiting folders to see what needs attention there. Once tasks have been completed, e.g. bills have been paid, decide whether you need to keep those emails in a Paid Bills folder otherwise, delete them. 

     As you’re working, more email will come in, try not to get distracted by them, finish your task at hand and then address the new arrivals. For more details on this method and how it also works for paperwork, check out our booklet, “Information Overload: from Piles to Actions to Results” at

     I invite you to give our Hot Action Method a try, then come back and post a comment about how it worked (or didn't work) for you.

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2 Comment(s):
Kathy said...
Great tip! Much better than printing the emails and paper filing it in a physical tickler! Will have to implement this right away!
August 4, 2012 07:11:57
cody said...
seriously, oraganizing emails can be a pin :(
August 3, 2012 12:25:58
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