3 Email Folders You Should Be Using to Keep Your Inbox Organized

Ben Stegner 09-07-2018

Email folders are one of the most important tools for keeping your inbox tidy. Without them, your mailbox soon becomes a jumbled mess of tasks, reference items, junk, and more, even if you’ve started out with an efficient email app.


Sifting these messages into folders lets you better keep track of them and keeps your inbox tidy. We’ve talked before about the only folders you need for inbox zero, but even if you aren’t an inbox zero person, here are three important email folders you should have anyway.

1. The “Follow Up” Email Folder

It’s really easy to forget a task that an emails requires as soon as you click away from it. Once it’s buried in your inbox, you’ll lose that fleeting thought (unless you add a task in your to-do app).

That’s why you need a folder called Follow Up. Put emails here that require some action on your part. As soon as they’re done, move them out. This way, you can open this folder anytime and complete outstanding work.

2. The “Reference” Email Folder

Your email probably contains lots of receipts, reminders, instructions, and other important documents you don’t want to lose. Searching is always an option for finding these, but that isn’t too efficient.

The Reference folder is the place for anything you’ll need in the future. Use it for important documents you’ll need later, and you’ll never lose track of important items again.


3. Due Date Folders for Tasks

For some people, folders based on categories don’t work well. If you’re someone like this, try creating folders based on due dates instead.

You could have a Today folder for urgent tasks, This Week folder for emails that you want to get to soon, and This Month for low-priority tasks. This lets you check in and complete tasks based on how important they are.

These three important folders are just suggestions—feel free to adapt them to what works for you! If you don’t want to categorize your emails manually, check out our guide to creating email filters How to Set Up Email Filters in Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook Email filtering is your best tool in keeping your inbox neat and organized. Here's how to set up and use email filters in Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook. Read More that can do it for you.

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  1. Marko
    October 22, 2018 at 8:26 am

    My question is what to do with the e-mails after the task is completed.
    Let's say I have e-mails in every folder:
    * Follow up;
    * Reference;
    * Due
    - Today;
    - Week;
    - Month.

    And in every folder there are e-mails regarding tasks already completed. Moreover - there are ~5 e-mails by average per subject...

  2. dragonmouth
    July 9, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    This is YOUR way of keeping emails organized. There are as many others as there are email users. We should organize our emails according to our circumstances, not according to someone's idea of efficiency.

    "1. The “Follow Up” Email Folder"
    If you forget to follow up, I'm sure your boss will remind you right quick.

    "2. The “Reference” Email Folder"
    When I hear "reference" I think 'dictionary, wiki, how-to's, compendia'. To store important documents, I would have a folder called 'Important Documents' with subfolders for the types of documents - 'Receipts'. 'Reminders', etc.

    "3. Due Date Folders for Tasks"
    Good idea, IF it is customary in your company to assign tasks at the last minute. However, from personal experience, Due Date of task does not determine the urgency in its completion. If I have a software system to deliver to a customer in six months, it has a higher priority than a minor software change due in couple of days.

    • Ben Stegner
      July 9, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      ...did I ever say that these folders are the ones that everyone must use? It's an example of how to organize your inbox that some people may find helpful, not the final answer to how everyone should use email. If this doesn't work for you, certainly use something else.

      • dragonmouth
        July 9, 2018 at 6:31 pm

        You may have never said "must use" but when the Deputy Editor at MakeUseOf with 1160 articles to his credit, who graduated Cum Laude and with Honors and holds a B.S. in Computer Information Systems says "should use", the message to many readers is that this is the way they better do it. Rightly or wrongly, your words have a lot of influence and your opinions may be seen as statements of fact by some (many) less tech-savvy people. In a word, you are an "influencer". As the old commercials for E.F. Hutton stock brokers used to say "When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen."

  3. SnowFlake816
    July 9, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Thank you very much for the tips! The due date categorization is especially very useful.