4 Key Principles to Great Inbox Management

As an assistant, you know how important it is to be on top of the inbox! If you have yet to create an ideal inbox organization system or want to improve your current setup, now is the time. We’ve outlined four principles below to help you better sort, organize, and maintain the many emails your leader receives. These principles can be applied to your own inbox, too! Great inbox management is possible for every EA – let’s make it happen for you.

The best inbox management tips for assistants

Watch the video below to hear our best strategies for an efficient, clean, and organized inbox. Click play to watch the full masterclass or keep reading to learn four principles of great inbox management.

Four principles to better manage your leader’s inbox

The principles outlined here will equip you with practical takeaways you can apply immediately to your leader’s inbox (or your own). Great inbox management starts with shifts in behavior and mindset. Are you ready to make the shift? Let’s go! 

Decrease noise in the inbox 🔉

“Noise” in the inbox is what prevents your leader from seeing the emails that contain the actual work. To decrease the noise, I recommend cutting down what comes into the inbox to begin with. This can be accomplished by:

  • Automatically sending newsletters to their own folder
  • Taking the time to unsubscribe from spam emails
  • Identifying emails that are content-free (i.e. confirmation emails)

I encourage you to set some time aside with your leader to discuss which emails they want to see in their inbox. This conversation may lead to even more great ideas for inbox management collaboration among you and your leader. Win-win!

Establish clear communication with defined roles 💬

Sometimes, a leader has a sentimental attachment to their inbox and is reluctant to let their EA take a peek inside. If that’s your situation, don’t worry! You can practice the art of managing up by transparently sharing with your Exec why you want to manage their inbox. Be patient, though. It may take some time to reach a certain level of trust for your leader to give you access. Try these effective strategies to clearly communicate the benefits: 

  • Tie the inbox to your leader’s goals and priorities (i.e. your inbox may be slowing you down from moving important work forward)
  • Suggest a trial period, such as only unsubscribing them from spam.They’ll be amazed at how much cleaner the inbox feels and looks!
  • Start with managing a single folder. They’ll quickly see your value as you handle it with ease.

You may even create an inbox management plan together, where roles and responsibilities of their inbox are defined so there’s no confusion moving forward. Whatever challenge you may face with inbox management, rest assured that there’s always a way to overcome it! 

Introduce intentionality 🎯

By developing the mindset that an inbox is a task-list, you can open unread emails with intentionality, knowing you will take some sort of action – archive, organize, respond – and in turn, see a brighter, cleaner inbox every time you open it. Sounds great, right? Never open an email without doing something to it, even if the doing is marking it unread to come back to.

By working through your leader’s inbox with a purpose, you’ll help them prioritize the emails that need their attention first and eliminate those that distract.

Keep it simple 👌

The simpler you can make inbox management, the easier it will be to find what you’re looking for in an instant. I encourage you to make your Executives’ inboxes intuitive. For instance, when you file an email, you’ll know right away which folder it belongs to – no guessing involved. You can also use search terms in the search bar to quickly find emails by sender, date, or with attachments. With simplicity in mind, you’ll be an inbox management expert in no time!

Base: the modern solution for Executive Assistants

Looking for an all-in-one platform that’s designed exclusively for assistants? Meet Base.

Base combines the tools you use every day so you have one go-to place to organize, communicate, and take action. It’s everything you need to be an excellent assistant. Get a demo and start working more efficiently today!

And if you’re looking for specialized training to develop skills, maximize impact, and build a collaborative culture within your Executive Assistant team — check out our career-centered training.

Written by Sara Altuna

Sara Altuna (she/her) is the Lead Content Strategist for Base. She believes in empowering assistants to be confident leaders who know the value of what they bring to their role.