How to avoid Inbox Overwhelm


Question: How do you not let email overwhelm you? I feel like as soon as I take care of one, at least two more have come in. I always feel behind and maybe even distracted by it. How do I stay on top of things but also not let it be all consuming?

This is SUCH a good question and so fitting with what I chatted about in my Instagram stories this week (which I got SO many replies too!) Email is a great tool but it can quickly become overwhelming. I have emails flooding into my inbox for so many reasons – some require quick replies and others can get pushed to the back burner. It is so east for me to spend my whole day checking & responding to email and not get everything I wanted done.

We don’t need to live as slaves to our emails! While replying to emails gives you the instant gratification of getting something done, it often drowns that out by having more come in.


Labels are KEY to inbox organization. It will help you feel confident & empowered to archive things so that you are not clogging up your inbox with read & responded to emails! Each year I create a label with the new year, ex. 2017. Then I organize all my other labels under this one until it becomes 2018. This is so important because it helps your labels from getting out of control and allows you to see what you did over the years. It is also SO helpful when searching for something – “Oh yes, that was vacation 2016” or “That was sponsored posts 2017.” I have 2015, 2016, and now 2017 in my google inbox. I encourage you to set this up and then continue this each year.

As for the rest of the labels, I often add as I go. Sponsored posts, Newsletter, Vacation, Taxes, are all some I have added.

TIP: When making labels, feel free to be yourself. This is for YOUR organization. If it makes sense for you to put all tax related information in “taxes” then do that. If you would rather say “Things I Buy” for all your online receipts, do that! Inspiration, Bank, Loans, Collaborations, Sponsored Posts, Newsletter, Sarah’s Wedding, & Family are all some of the labels I have right now. Be easy on yourself and don’t make this too complicated!

Once you add that label, archive it! Make sure you have already sent a reply to the email because it will be leaving your inbox. When you archive emails it gets them off your home screen and into magical folders. You now can always click on the label or search for the email if you need to find it again but it helps clean your inbox! You’re inbox should not be full of emails you have already responded to. 


One thing I recently started to do is set hours for when I am responding/ looking at emails. While I’ve had a general rule where I do not work on emails in the evenings or on the weekends, I still read them on my phone and it can stress me out. Even if I know the email can wait until the next day, I feel drawn to take care of it. To really help me enforce this, I added Inbox Pause to my gmail account. Now when the clock hits 5:30 I push pause. I do not unpause it until I am back at my desk for the work day. That way I don’t feel pressured to respond to an email or worried about an email or thinking about email – I just deal with them in work hours!

This has relieved an insane amount of stress and really allowed me have a work life AND a home life even though I work from home.

Another way to take advantage of this feature is to pause your inbox while you are working on a project. If you have to get a post done or edit client photos in one hour and you know you will be tempted/ distracted by new emails coming in, pause your account to be able to work mostly distraction free!


If you have not yet, I encourage you to take my free One Week to Inbox Zero Class! All you have to do is click on this button below to sign up!

After that, try to keep it clean. You do not need to get to zero every day but I do think that once a week you should set aside a time to pause your email and reply/archive/ delete all the emails in your inbox. When emails sit there too long it can add more stress to feeling like we need to reply to them. If you pause every week and take care of all emails, you will have at least a one week turnaround on emails and that is good!

These are the three things that I do to try to fight inbox overwhelm. Email is a gift and, even if you are a small business owner, it does not have to rule you!


Do you have any questions you have been wanting to ask?! Click on the button below to submit your question and it may be the next “Ask Elizabeth” question featured next Friday!

Author: Oak & Oats

  • Love this post–super helpful tips and totally do-able!

  • Yes great tips! I love getting to Inbox zero! And I want to check out the Inbox Pause plugin – sounds super helpful!

  • I’ll admit that I’m the worst at organizing my emails…I just let them all stack up by the hundreds in my inbox until I clean the whole thing out every three years or so 🙂 (Of course, I still DEAL with the emails that need dealing with–I just don’t organize/file them after.) The biggest thing that helps me (which you probably mention in your Inbox Zero course) is that when I notice I’m frequently not opening up emails from the same sender (like a blog I’ve opted into or a newsletter I subscribe to), I just unsubscribe from it. I regularly unsubscribe to things every month to help me from having too many emails to get overwhelmed by in the first place!

    • Yes! Yikes. I have to archive things that I’v answered. I hate leaving things in my inbox – but it that is what works for you! XOXO

  • Thank you, this helped me so much! It was the perfect timing since I was just deleting unnecessary emails before I read this. 🙂