As a business owner, you might be finding yourself swamped by emails. Your business is complex with comms coming at you from all directions. How can you get control over your inbox and not allow your emails to take over your time?
Here are 5 Tips to help you to control your inbox.
1. Get Organised
I’m often asked how I manage my emails and control my inbox, especially once I’ve explained that I manage to get to inbox zero once a day.
My secret weapon for that is Sanebox.
I pause my inbox for most of the day and when I unpause it and the emails flood in, Sanebox shuffles them all around so that only those important emails that I need to respond to soon appear in my inbox. The others get organised into various folders, which I can sort through and administer according to my time and priorities.
How Does It Work?
I have two folders for newsletters – @sanenews, those that are generally full of ads and spam that I mostly don’t read, unless something really interesting jumps out at me (note to self: email subject lines are really important!) and @sanenewsthatiwant, those where I will generally read them so I like to keep those separate.
I have emails from PLR providers that all go into a separate folder so I can read / see them when I’m in a PLR state of mind (isn’t that a Billy Joel song?!)
@sanelater holds the emails that aren’t as important as those in the inbox but are more important than those in the @sanenewsiwant folder…and so on.
The system is ‘trained’ as you move emails around and the tool gets better and better!
Most times I work through all my emails at once but just having them split into separate folders makes the process easier and less daunting for me. I often talk about ‘slicing and dicing’ my todo list to make it more manageable, and I like to do the same with my emails.
2. Unsubscribe to Control Your Inbox
Over the years you have most probably signed up for newsletters that you no longer read (if indeed you ever did!). Taking some time to unsubscribe from them now will save you plenty of time in the future.
Each August and December, I do a ‘back to school’ challenge that includes, amongst other tasks, a week of unsubscribing to unwanted newsletters. It never ceases to amaze me how satisfying and freeing it is to get rid of those emails.
Most newsletters nowadays (because it’s the law!) have an unsubscribe link or button somewhere on them – make sure you use it often!
3. Use the Two Minute Rule
For me, the most important thing about managing your emails is to understand that what you are doing when you are ‘managing’ them is actually ‘triaging’ them, ie processing them and removing them from your inbox!
There are only 4 actions you should be taking with every email: either delete, delegate (pass on to someone else), defer (add to your todo list or however you plan what to do later) or do.
Remember that the last one only applies if whatever action needed takes less than 2 minutes to do. Any longer than that and you’re into the realms of getting really distracted and not finishing clearing your inbox, in which case choose ‘defer’ and move on.
4. Set Aside Specific Time to Process your Emails
I’m a fan of batching work, especially when it comes to processing your emails. Unless you pause your inbox (something of which I’m also a fan!), they come into your inbox pretty much constantly, so processing them as they arrive isn’t an option if you have other things to do!
Set aside specific time every day to process your emails, to suit your energy levels, business and customer response time expectations. I just do it once a day but you might find that you need to do it more often.
And then make sure you either pause your inbox or at least stop your notifications in between times so that you aren’t being constantly distracted by new emails arriving and are in control of your inbox.
5. Don’t Skim Through Your Emails
When it is time to process your emails, take some time to properly read the emails that you need to reply to and to consider your response.
Sometimes we can get too busy and end up dashing off replies to important emails that don’t really say what we mean. Or we can misinterpret what we are being asked for and reply with the wrong information.
Important emails might need to be categorised as ‘defer’ if the answer will take some time to research, decide and prepare – and it will take more than two minutes to do. In that case, consider dashing off a quick response to acknowledge receipt and maybe indicate a timescale for your more considered reply and then defer the email to your todo list.
If you apply these 5 tips to control your inbox, you should find your email admin becomes less overwhelming, stuff doesn’t get lost and people feel communicated with in a timely way.