Event planners are notorious for being hyper-organized. But there is one unspoken chaos in your life that few people know about — the overflowing state of your email inbox.

You know the feeling — with every notification, you see the giant pile of unread messages getting bigger. Some persistent emails clog every event manager’s inbox, languishing unresponded (or, worse, unread) for days then weeks at a time.

If this sounds like your email routine, it’s past time to try a new approach. Organizing, managing, and maintaining a clean email inbox can be done — but it requires a change in your process and your mindset.

Start with these hacks and you’ll be on your way toward an email inbox that doesn’t make you cringe.

Email hack #1: Separate work from personal accounts

You might think that having two accounts to manage is your worst nightmare, but it’s actually a great way to reduce stress. Just as taking personal calls at work, or work calls at home can throw you off your game and cause distractions, your email should be treated the same way.

Email hack #2: Use folders and labels

If you’re one of those people who has thousands — or tens of thousands — of messages unread, it’s probably because all of your emails go into one giant inbox and you never move them. What you need are folders and filters to categorize your messages.

For example, you can have a different folder for each event, each vendor, one for your boss, another for staff messages, and more. Most email platforms let you set up automatic filtering based on subject line, sender, keyword, and more.

Email hack #3: Have a system for prioritization

Not all emails demand immediate attention, while some need to be addressed ASAP. But when they mix and mingle in your email inbox, it’s hard to tell the two apart.

To make the most important emails stand out, you can move them into a folder marked “important stuff,” or add color-coding. You can also create a folder called “deal with later” for items that require a bit more time and concentration.

Email hack #4: Unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters

Too much of your inbox is filled with promotional emails and newsletters that you had the best of intentions of reading when you subscribed — but now just cause stress.

Take a few minutes a week to weed through unwanted email blasts and find the “unsubscribe” link or make it a habit to unsubscribe on the spot when they hit your inbox. There are even apps like Unroll.me that exist solely to make it easier for you to unsubscribe in mass.

Email hack #5: Forward the email to someone else

If you know deep down that there are messages that you just won’t get to, pass it along to a reliable staffer who can address them. As long as you’re confident that they can handle it, you can confidently hit delete.

Email hack #6: Check in throughout the day

While you don’t want constant emails to interrupt your flow, if you set aside 10 minutes every couple of hours for cleanup (i.e. creating filters, moving messages to folders, deleting, and forwarding as needed), you can avoid pile-ups.

Another good rule of thumb: If you can respond to a message in two minutes or less, do it so you can move on.

Email hack #7: Use tools to help stay organized

Beyond learning how to use filters, you can see what your email provider offers to help you stay organized.

For example, Gmail automatically separates out your promotional and update emails into handy folders, while the Apple Mail program has “smart” mailboxes that allow you to see only messages received that day or based on whatever criteria you set.

You can also look for email apps and tools like Boomerang, which is like a “snooze” button that allows you to have a message resent to you at a more convenient time.

Email hack #8: Aim for “inbox zero”

Not everyone can realistically achieve a completely empty inbox, but your goal should be to work toward that. By staying on top of your messages throughout the day and having somewhere to put them, you might one day achieve that coveted zero messages moment — a thrilling event planner moment, for sure.

Email is a vital tool, but it can do just as much harm as good. Conquer email clutter for good using the strategies above, and your inbox overload stress will melt away.

Once you master your inbox, use this pre-event de-stress checklist to maintain your sanity during the event.

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