Keeping Your Inbox Under Control in College

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

When you're a student, it can be difficult to keep your inbox under control. Between messages from professors and TAs, event emails from the university, clubs you're involved in or your department, and newsletters from all your favorite stores (and that website you only ordered from once but you haven't bothered to unsubscribe from), inbox zero, something that was easy to maintain in high school, suddenly becomes a lofty goal. While my inbox is rarely ever empty, I do know a thing or two about organizing emails and what tools to use.

Use folders.

This is one tip I have been using for a long time and it is so useful. Even though most email services have a search feature, sometimes it is just way too easy for emails to get lost beyond recovery, even if you didn't delete them. There are some emails that you probably shouldn't throw away (boarding passes, receipts, event tickets) that can easily get lost, so I like to put them in a "save" or "purchases" folder (that way you won't be searching your inbox frantically while you're standing in line for a concert or at the airport.) You can also create folders for separate parts of your life (e.g. school, work etc.) so you'll be able to find that email from your professor or boss that much easier.

Don't make inbox zero the goal.

Like I said before, while inbox zero was easy in high school (it was for me at least), it's not always realistic in college. Sometimes the best place for an email is sitting front and center in your inbox (that is how I remember to do things sometimes!) and as long as you're sorting the emails periodically, there's nothing wrong with keeping a few out of trash or a separate folder. Besides, who really has time to sort through their entire inbox, creating folders to house every single email? I'm sure you have better things to do, so strive to keep your inbox organized, not empty.

Use apps.

I think sometimes we focus so much on mobile apps for our phones or tablets that we forget how many great apps there are for our desktops or browsers. These are my favorite apps that I use for my Gmail account that help me keep it tidy!


If you like to sign up for newsletters to get free stuff, exclusive deals or account updates, but don't love the hundreds of emails cluttering your inbox that you are never going to need, I highly recommend using unroll.me. You basically choose which email lists you would like to unsubscribe from (stores you no longer shop at etc.), which ones you would like rolled into a daily update email and which ones you would like to keep in your inbox (I keep school updates in my inbox so I can get them right as they come through. That way I'll know right away if a class has been cancelled or an assignment due date has changed.) I've used this app on both Yahoo and Gmail accounts and it works great on each!


This app lets you see if your recipient has opened your email which is kind of stalker-ish, but useful nonetheless. Sometimes you may send an email and not necessarily need a response, but still want to know if the person got it. Or, if you do need a response and you've noticed the recipient opened it three days ago, you'll know it's appropriate to send a follow-up message (you'll also know your email isn't going straight to spam.) You can also schedule emails, which is really useful if you, like me, get all your work done at night, but would rather the email be sent out in the morning.


Okay, so if you have Sidekick, you don't really need Boomerang (I got it before Sidekick integrated its scheduling feature), but it does have one feature Sidekick doesn't: you can "boomerang" your emails in a few days if you don't get a response. This can be really useful if you're trying to follow up with someone or even if you're just trying to get in touch with a professor (I have had multiple professors say things like "If I don't email you back in 48 hours, send another email because it got lost in my mess of an inbox.")

I hope you find these tips useful for cleaning up your inbox. If you have any additional tips or tricks for keeping your inbox organized, let me know in the comments below!

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