Email has, and probably will always be a big part of our work life. When I started using email, there was not much thought going into managing my inbox. It was fine at the beginning because I didn’t have many emails to deal with back then. But over time, as my work gets more complicated, my inbox started to pile up and became a huge mess.

Until one day, I came up with an idea to better manage my inbox, which became my ultimate, life-changing productivity hack. I could finally say goodbye to the anxiety when opening my inbox.

Actually, I was answering customer support tickets on Zendesk when I had the idea of applying the support center labeling system to my own inbox. And this is how it works:

Create 2 labels “OPEN” and “PENDING” in your email client, which in my case is Gmail. Color-code these labels for easier reference.

OPEN: Indicates that the email needs some part of my work to be completed. The case is “Open”. So this applies to any work requests given to me, or emails that I need to reply to.

PENDING: Indicates that the case is also open, but requires another person’s work to be completed.

The way you actually put this system to work is actually quite simple:

  • Work through all your unread emails, and label each as either Open or Pending.
  • Archive any email that has been completely dealt with. Or you can just leave them as read in your inbox.

This system allows you to keep track of your to-dos within your mailbox, and also keep track of pending issues that require other people’s work.

I usually start my day by clicking on the Open label to see all the emails that need my reply or my work. Likewise, I could check all the Pending emails and send follow-up emails if necessary.

I have heard of different email organization methods such as Inbox Zero. But for me, the Open & Pending system serves me best in dealing with task organization and follow-up.

Give it a try and I promise that you will find this to be an amazing productivity hack!