January 10, 2024


Before jumping into replies — prioritize!

2023 has come to an end and the holidays are behind us. It is time to get back into the “real world.” You might be the type of person who is excited to get back to work after being off for a while, but snapping back to that work routine can be tough, especially when you are facing an overflowing inbox.

Spinning up your inbox and facing 100+ unread emails is overwhelming. Just thinking about dealing with all those emails can trigger anxiety and lead to everyone’s favorite coping mechanism – avoidance. But avoiding emails only makes the problem worse so instead, here are five tips for a clean inbox to kick off the year.

Delete the spam and unnecessary emails first.

A great step to start your journey to a clean inbox is quickly scanning your emails for ads, spam and any other unnecessary emails. Select all and delete. This is a quick way to make the number of emails sitting in your inbox more manageable.

Block off time.

Just like you would set aside time for a meeting, mark your calendar as ‘busy’ while you are responding to emails. This uninterrupted time will help you stay focused and efficient with your replies. You may need extra blocks of time to catch up at the start of the year. That is normal. Block off your calendar and give yourself space to start making progress.

Start at the top.

Your inbox is full, now where to begin? Start from the top down. This may seem odd, but there’s a reason for the madness. For starters, it guarantees you are looking at latest update in the email chain. By starting at the top, you can see the full conversation and context of a message. This helps you prioritize as well as avoid sending out unnecessary (and potentially confusing) replies.

Review and triage.

Before jumping into replies — prioritize! Review and organize emails by priority. Most email programs include tools for flagging or color-coding emails. High priority emails may require a conversation with others or take extra time for a thoughtful response. Another tactic is to make a to-do list for the emails that require action. This will help weed out the non-urgent/filler emails you accumulate and prioritize those that will require legwork.

Send a quick reply to buy more time.

If you need additional time to research a question or touch base with your team, it is perfectly fine to send a quick email acknowledging the message and setting expectations for when they can expect a response. This is both courteous to the sender and buys you time to develop an in-depth response.


Remember, depending on how much of your job relies on email, you may not be able to achieve a clean inbox. And that is fine. The goal is to make it easier for you to tackle your emails more efficiently and set you up for success as you head back to work after time away.

Want to take inbox organization to the next level? Check out these extra tips and resources:

Weekly Recipe

White Bean and Quinoa Burger with Avocado

Kayla Hsu

Authored By

Kayla Hsu, MPH, CHES®

Kinetiq Health Program Manager

As a Kinetiq Health Program Manager, Kayla provides businesses with customized health and wellness solutions to better manage and improve the overall health and well-being of their employees.

Prior to joining Apex in March 2022, Kayla worked at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center on a statewide grant initiative integrating evidence-based tobacco treatment services into behavioral healthcare settings. She also has experience as a quality improvement advisor with a nonprofit healthcare quality improvement consultancy and Medicare Quality Improvement Organization (QIO).

Kayla is a trained Tobacco Treatment Specialist (TTS) and earned the National Certificate in Tobacco Treatment Practice (NCTTP). She is a member of the Indiana Society for Public Health Education (InSOPHE) and a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®).

Meet Kayla