There’s nothing more stress-inducing for business owners than having an overflowing, disorganised inbox. An out-of-control inbox can lead to missing an important opportunity or event, extra stress and constantly playing catch up (some have been known to reach over 40,000 emails!).
Putting a system in place is a far better idea than getting bogged down and seeing your productivity drop. Right now it might seem impossible to achieve the holy grail of ‘inbox zero,’ but there are plenty of ways to manage your emails better, get organised and achieve peace of mind.
Here are some ways to get back in control of your inbox:
1. Treat your inbox as a to-do list (inbox zero practice)
Every day identify what you need to do with each email. If no action is needed, archive it. If it’s an event invite, schedule the event and delete the email. If more action is required, create a long-term action email list and move it to that. More urgent tasks can be added to a separate list.
2. Use an automatic response for unsolicited email
Set an automatic message. Determine which mail is unsolicited or spam based on the content and ‘look’ of the email and delete it. You can easily set up a spam filter (although if you’re using Gmail you will rarely see spam in your inbox).
3. Don’t let anything sit in your inbox
Action it, move it or delete it. Don’t be scared to delete e-mails (don’t get into the habit of hoarding). Delete smartly, use folders or labels.
4. Organise your newsletters and updates
If you subscribe to lots of newsletters (especially as a new entrepreneur learning the ropes) organise them into folders. Delete emails that no longer serve a purpose.
5. Don’t constantly check email
Schedule in time during the day to check(first thing on a morning/lunchtime/evening)
6. Use short responses
Reply using a couple of sentences at most to save time. If the email necessitates a longer response, call the sender or schedule a meeting.
7. Unsubscribe RUTHLESSLY
Look at the newsletters you’re signed up for – do you really need to be subscribed to them? Spend some time unsubscribing and be more selective about what you subscribe to – do you really need to? It’s tempting to sign up for lots of freebies but do you really need them?
8. Use smart questions
If you receive a lot of emails asking for advice, ask some questions before you respond. “Can it wait?” If yes, move to follow up folder. If no, ask “does it really require my attention?” If no, move to archives/trash. If yes, ask “Can I direct them to a resource instead?” If yes, send the link and move to trash/archives. If no, ask “am I ever going to respond to this?” If no, move to trash. If yes, respond in less than five sentences, then move to trash/archives.
9. Turn off all notification emails from social media accounts
There is no point in getting email notifications for Facebook updates or Tweets – go to the settings on each platform and ruthlessly untick the boxes!
Remember – don’t be too hard on yourself!
Don’t worry too much if it takes you a while to reach inbox zero. Be happy with achieving inbox 50-100 initially, which is much less stressful than inbox 40,000! Or you could always declare ’email bankruptcy’ by deleting everything and starting again!