16 Women At The Top Of Their Game Share Their Best Email Hacks

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Email is the opposite of the gift that keeps on giving. It's usually the nightmare that never ends.

The second you feel like you've caught up, you're faced with the responses to the messages you just answered and it's time to start again. Couple this with all the other tasks that fill the workday — meetings, calls, and, oh, actual work — and it starts to feel a little unmanageable.

But before you give in to the pit of despair that is your inbox, know this: There are some ways to keep your email under control. We went to women who have made it to the top in tech, business, and sports to find out how they tackle the beast. From flagging and folders to prioritizing like a pro, they shared their best organizing tips.

Regardless of whether you're an inbox zero person or have a red bubble above your email icon denoting hundreds (thousands?) of unread messages, these ideas will help. Click through to see all 16.
1 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Have A Sorting Method That Works For You

“Inbox zero isn’t a reality for me, and my inbox is my to-do list, so I sort by person, topic, and who is on the 'To' line to help me address high priority mails. For me it’s not about doing more or handling everything, it’s about getting the small stuff out of the way so I can focus on what matters most.

“For emails I’m cc’d on, I consider those messages to be for information only. I read them and immediately file or delete. For emails sent to several people, I review them and determine whether I need to respond directly or if someone on my team should own that particular conversation.”

— Julie Larson-Green, Chief Experience Officer at Microsoft
2 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Multitask — & Send Calendar Invites

"Most of my days are filled with back-to-back-meetings and conference calls, so I don’t often have time to sit down at my computer and check emails. In order to stay up to speed on what’s going on throughout the day, I'm constantly working from my iPhone, responding to time-sensitive media inquiries and incoming messages.

"That’s not always easy, so when I’m dealing with a crisis or something that needs immediate attention, I'll take my laptop into meetings and pretend I’m taking notes when I’m actually replying to emails (don’t lie, you’ve done it too). Multitasking is essential when working for a global tech company. If I need to remember to respond to something important, I set a calendar invite so I get notified that it needs to get done."

— Rosette Pambakian, VP of Global Communications and Branding at Tinder
3 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Use Slack

"One of the most impactful things our team has done is move our high priority conversations to Slack to help make quick decisions with input from the entire team. External requests outside of our team are discussed over email."

— Sara Haider, Senior Manager of Software Engineering at Periscope
4 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Flag Like A Boss

"This may not be the most healthy of hacks but my process has been to always flag everything important in red and not go to bed until they've all been reviewed.

"Another great hack I employ is my mom. I talk to her daily, so if there are a bunch of to-dos I need to get done that I'm worried about forgetting, I'll just email her and make sure she walks me through it on the call."

— Whitney Wolfe, Co-Founder and CEO of Bumble
5 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Put Your Folders To Work

"Auto-categorize is a must — only the people I talk to in conversations make it to the primary inbox. Everything else is moved to other folders for follow up."

— Amber Venz Box, President & Co-Founder at rewardStyle & LIKEtoKNOW.it
6 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Do A Monday Morning Scan

"At the office, whether I am viewing my emails on my laptop or my mobile device, I have my email set up so that I can preview the first several lines of the email at a glance. This helps me prioritize by allowing me to quickly scan and judge the urgency of the email.

"If I can’t respond to an email right away, I use the 'flag' tool to help remind me which emails are the most urgent. I also like to spend a few minutes Sunday night or Monday morning going back through my inbox to make sure I haven’t missed anything important. I find it’s a great way to start the week organized and prepared for what lies ahead.”

— Tricia Morrow, Global Safety Strategy Engineer at GM
7 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Put An End To Threads

"I check email three times a day: [In the] morning, before my marathon meetings begin, mid-day to respond to any emails that require a response before end of day, and end of day. In addition, when I have a couple of minutes to spare throughout the day I will scan my email.

"My rule is when an email becomes a thread, I kindly ask to take it offline and call a meeting."

— Sandra Lopez, Vice President of the New Technology Group at Intel
8 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Mark Messages As "Unread"

"Weekday meetings and events can make it challenging to respond in a timely manner to both work and personal emails. In order to stay on top of emails, I take a few hours on Sunday mornings to catch up on what I couldn’t get to during the week. The trick is to make sure you don’t forget which emails need a reply. I mark emails that still need a response as unread so that I can easily find them and respond."

— Laura R Marquez, Head of Latino Community Engagement at Google
9 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Switch Up Your Email Responding Time

"I'm obsessed with having a clean inbox and I used to let it dominate my day. I would start my day going through my inbox and keep working on that, but found that then I didn't get what I needed to get done and my day was more directed by other people's emails than what I wanted to achieve. So now I start my day with my list of what i know needs to happen and get to email in the afternoon or evening."

— Blair Ethington, SVP and GM of CrowdStar's Covet Fashion
10 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Use Acronyms

"The task of writing emails can sometimes feel endless, and I find that I use the same phrases over and over. Enter textexpander.com which basically puts a magic button on your computer (or any device that you type on) and allows you to create little acronym shortcuts (like Apple does when you type “omw"). So you can make up clever ones like: “tfby” (thanks for being you) or "inta” (i need that asap). It has saved me thousands of keystrokes, which is great since I tend to type so intensely that most of the keys have rubbed off on my macbook."

— Jennie Baik, CEO of Orchard Mile
11 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Handle Pressing Issues Over The Phone

"My best email management tip is to not let it overtake your day. Between Slack, text messages, and in-person conversations, the less said on email, the better.

"With the number of emails that I receive, I try not to distract myself with things that can wait for the commute home or end of day once my boys are settled. For urgent issues, my team knows that a quick call is the best way to reach me and my executive assistant catches any urgent emails from my inbox."

— Mary Wittenberg, CEO of Virgin Sport
12 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Tackle Non-Urgent Messages After A Break

“Inbox management is a constant battle. During the work day, I try to get through all emails that require quick answers. I save the more thoughtful emails until after I’m able to run it out. I find that the miles I spend on the running trails are where I do my best thinking. Whether it’s thoughts about work, friends, or family, I always return refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of my to-do list.”

— Anne Cavassa, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Brooks Running
13 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Trust Your Team

“I take a sort of Maslow-esque hierarchy to judge need to do now vs. can do later in my approach to email. I prioritize a quick response if the note is something that needs to be addressed right away and hold back if it’s something I can file and address later. I’m super systematic and never miss an important email that comes through my inbox, but this mental evaluation allows me to leave myself breathing room to concentrate on things that are also outside of my inbox (i.e., the real physical world). Beyond my own internal system, I trust my team 100% to jump in on my behalf so nothing ever goes unanswered."

— Ondriona Monty, CMO at Dots
14 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Block Off Email Time

"When it comes to email, it's key to not confuse urgent with important. They are not always the same. It's critical to ensure important emails — for example, informal emails to stay connected with the people in my network — get the time they deserve. One way I manage this is to block out time in my calendar each week for sending emails to touch base, whether it’s to reinforce new connections, like following up with someone I met at an event, or to nurture existing contacts. This proactive approach to my correspondence has worked really well for me."

Alexis Krivkovich, Managing Partner of McKinsey and Company's Silicon Valley Office and co-author of Women in the Workplace
15 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Limit How Often You Check Your Inbox

"I try to only check email hourly — unless I have a deadline and then I’ll block my calendar and shut down my inbox — and try to ensure that I have the minimal amount of touches, similar to how I approach paper. I’ll reply concisely if it is warranted, delete if it is unnecessary, flag for follow up, or file away if completed."

— Koel Thomae, Co-Founder of Noosa Yoghurt
16 of 17
Designed by Alex Marino.
Clear Out Before Bed

"I complete small tasks right away. I star longer reads for later when I have time to take it all in. And last, I never go to sleep without an empty inbox. That one can be hard to keep up with, but trust me, it's worth it."

— Lilly Singh, YouTube Star
and Entrepreneur
17 of 17

More from Tech


R29 Original Series