Can’t Keep Up? 4 Ways To Simplify Your Inbox

I’m a little obsessive compulsive about my email. Here’s what I mean:

  • When my email “dings” at me on my computer, I stop whatever I’m doing to read and react to that email.
  • I have all my emails being pushed to my phone every 5 minutes.
  • I wake up in the morning and one of the first things I want to do is check my email.
  • I respond to ministry emails when I’m not “on the clock.”
  • People I minister with expect a very quick email response from me.
  • I like my inbox to be at zero.
  • When I don’t get through all my email, I feel like I have left a major project undone.

Does this sound like you? Maybe a little.

I don’t even receive that many emails in a day compared to some people I know. I can’t even imagine how I would react if I received 500+ emails a day!

Why am I a little OCD? Well, for two reasons:

  1. I like order and systems. My email inbox is something I can fully control, where much of life is not like that.
  2. It’s part of my value system. My team and I follow the rule that we respond to every email and phone message within 24-48 hours, unless we’re on vacation or it’s a weekend or holiday.

Fortunately, I have recently encountered some blog posts and podcasts that have helped me get better at managing my email inbox. Since I started doing these 4 things to simplify my inbox, I have felt much less stress and been much more productive.

  1. Check email twice a day. I schedule two times in my day (maybe 3), usually at the beginning of my day and one at the end, to check my email. When I’m done, I shut down my email program so that it doesn’t keep “dinging” at me and distracting me from my other tasks and projects.
  2. Set your phone to “manually” pull emails. This was an important one for me. My phone used to “ding” at me every 5 minutes, which meant I found myself wanting to check my email. Just like leaving my email program open, it distracted me from my work. I do check and respond to email on my phone, but I only do it during my scheduled email time.
  3. Empty your inbox completely. Every time I check email, my goal is to empty my inbox. That means I either respond quickly and delete the email (or archive it), or I file it away in the appropriate folder. So read on.
  4. Get rid of your complicated email folder system. I now use only 4 folders: Action Required, Waiting for Response, Archive, and Deleted Email.

Email was controlling my workflow and productivity. I’m the one that needs to control my workflow, not my email. These 4 simple strategies have helped me out tremendously in my ministry!

Question: Do you feel your email controls you? What ideas have you used to simplify your inbox?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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