When people come to me to assist them with their time management, one of the most typical things that I see is email management.

Quite often, email can just dominate people’s working lives, really take over and really cause a great level of stress. So, I’m going to share with you three mistakes that you’re probably making with your email that are costing you time and your concentration. 

1. Wasting Time Managing & Overprocessing Your Emails

You’re probably wasting time in your email, scouring up and down through your inbox, looking for things to do, looking for things you might have missed, some things that have come in, or some things you need to process or prioritise. The problem is, every time you scroll up and down that inbox, you’re touching the emails again.

It’s what we call in the time management industry, touchpoints. We want to reduce the number of touchpoints that you have with anything at any one time. Every time you touch something, it steals away a little bit of time. You don’t think much of it. It may be a second or two or maybe a minute or two. Maybe you’re clicking on an email to read to re familiarise yourself with what it was and what you needed to do. Each time you do this, it steals a little more time from you. If you do these two or three times with the same email, then that’s another touchpoint over and over.

It’s like putting a bucket under a dripping tap. You think to yourself, it’s just a drip. It’s not much water that’s being wasted. Yet you come back a short time later and the bucket is full. Each one of those little drips has accumulated to a massive amount of water. It’s the same with those emails. It’s not much time, it feels like just a little bit of time. However, over the course of the day, it’s like a bucket filling full of water.

When I help people to modify their habits with their email and adjust the way that they’re managing their emails, I can typically give them back 2 hours a day by changing those touchpoints. Now, 2 hours a day, equates to 10 hours a week. For most people, that is 12 weeks a year of wasted time that they have wasted. 

2. Not Filing Your Emails

A common mistake is when people don’t file their emails and not get rid of emails out of their inbox. People tend to nest on their emails. You don’t want to move your emails out of your inbox because if you can eyeball them, then you have this sense of security. You feel like you’re not going to miss something or forget about it. It’s like juggling a whole heap of balls in your hand by touching them all the time.

Imagine your house is full of stuff and you’re moving around the house trying to find things that you need to do. If you’re anything like me, the type of person who goes from one room to another.  Where you get distracted by something and forget why you were there in the first place. You’re probably doing that with your emails in your inbox as well. Just like a house full of stuff, there’s too much distraction. Now if your house is full of stuff, I’d be saying to you, get rid of most of it. I’m not saying throw them away, I’m just saying, you can move them into the shed.

Now if you want to go into the shed, sort through it and fuss around in there, by all means, do it. Let’s clear your house out so that you’ve got space to move, think, and process things. Likewise, you’re going to need to do the same things with your email.

I encourage my clients to move their emails that are two weeks or older out of their inbox and into the archive. Relax! You’re not throwing them away. You’re moving stuff out of your house and into the shed. Your inbox is being like a shed anyway. You’re scouring up and down looking for things, trying to find things and end up getting distracted. Go and do that in the archive if you really have to, but keep your inbox as a receptacle for receiving, processing and managing things on a day-to-day basis. Get things out and into the archive as soon as you can. You can create folders for actionable things or things that you need to read.

3. Not Prioritising Your Emails

Many people will use features within their emails such as the flagging and starring features or maybe you will mark emails as unread so that they stand out bold as you go through your inbox looking for things you need to action or do. The problem with that method is that you end up with a lot of things that are essentially screaming at you saying, “look at me, look at me,” and it gets very noisy. If there’s lots of emails doing that, it’s hard to know which one to listen to, or which one to look at first.

You really need a good system for prioritising your emails out of all those screaming ones.

  • Which one do you need to do today?
  • Which one do you need to do tomorrow?
  • Which one can you leave until later in the week?
  • And which one can you put off until next week?

The goal here is to be able to know which one you do first. It’s not that any of these emails are not important. We’re not saying that. However, what you need to address is which of these emails is urgent and what is their level of urgency? That’s the prioritisation that you need to consider.

  • What are the major challenges you face with email?
  • Is it that you can’t prioritise?
  • Is it that you can’t find your emails?
  • Is it that you get too many emails in one day and you can’t find the things that you need to deal with, or you get distracted?
  • Are you losing important information?
  • Are you forgetting to follow up on things or chase people up or action things because they’ve got lost in your inbox or in folders?

These are the common problems that I see for people in their email management.

The good news is if you’re using Microsoft 365 for dealing with emails, I can give you back those 2 hours in a day. Check with your employer or with your I.T Manager to find out which system you are using.

The Hinwood Institute has a fantastic online course for addressing your email problems. You can access it in your own time to improve how you manage those emails.

Personal Email Mastery at Work

Time Management with Microsoft Outlook

Email Time ManagementThis course is designed for super busy professional people drowning in emails. This program typically gives back 2 hours per day.

This course will provide you with personal insight into the ways in which you respond to tasks and prioritising your workload. Utilising some of the advanced features and tools within Outlook, this course will demonstrate innovative techniques to become far more effective in managing your workload.

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About the Author

Barbara Clifford - The Time Tamer

Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a co-founder of The Hinwood Institute. She is the lead trainer and coach in Time Management. She is a recognized leader in Stress Management. An experienced coach, speaker, columnist and facilitator, Barbara’s work with The Hinwood Institute assists people to unclutter mess, make order from chaos, and swap the shackles of overwhelming for freedom. Barbara’s clients move from the relentless hamster wheel to waking inspired, motivated, making decisions with purpose and achieving peak performance. She lives in the desert of Alice Springs, Australia working with people around the country.

Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships


  • Archive your week or two old emails
  • Be clear on the categories of work to prioritise
  • Move your emails out of your inbox


  • Nest on your emails
  • Get distracted with too many emails
  • Waste time scouring up and down through your inbox

P.S. If you’d like more advice, tips and information to minimise stress and maximise time, join our Facebook tribe of Resilient Leaders – Managing Time, Stress & Wellbeing