Are you drowning?
When you’re crunched for time, is email one of the first things that gets neglected?
We can get through this.
Today’s the day to take a few concrete steps to get this under control for the long term.
First, we’ll look that inbox right in the face and show it who’s boss. Then, we’ll talk about how to keep things from spiraling out of control next time.
Set aside an hour. Get a beverage and some high-tempo music. Roll up your sleeves. We’re diving in.
Step One: Clean Out Your Inbox
There’s a good chance you need to clean out your inbox. You know who you are out there, friends.
Unread messages distract from the important stuff.
If you’re like most of us, most of your unread messages are basically junk that you are never, ever going to read. Get rid of them!
Wave goodbye to the junk.
Feel free to use your “delete all from” feature to say goodbye to all those ads you get from ReallyCuteShoes.com. Bye emails.
Next, unsubscribe from all the lists you never touch. Every legit marketing email has an unsubscribe button at the bottom, required by law. If it doesn’t, mark it as spam. Bye emails! (Please don’t mark legit, opt-in email newsletters as spam. It unnecessarily penalizes the sender.)
There are services that will unsubscribe you from a bunch of newsletters at once, but at a price. Usually, the price is that after you give them access to your email, they sell your information.
Get yourself a beverage and power through the rest.
Now—and this might be the hard part—go through that inbox and answer or file everything.
If you can’t answer or file it yet, flag it.
Do it all in one go, or take a week to chip away at it.
You can do it! No need to apologize for late responses. You’re doing great. Starting is the hardest part.
Step Two: Organize Whatcha Got
Once you get your email under control, you’ll need to find and stick to a system to keep it under control.
Consider checking your email one or two times a day. Answer everything right away. If a message needs more than five minutes of your time, you can put that task on your calendar, and update the sender on your progress.
Some people say not to do email first thing in the morning. As a writer, I find it easier to start with something “easy,” rather than creative. And I’m on the West Coast, so I don’t want to feel behind the times. Your choice!
Keep it Simple, Stunner.
This is a personal preference thing, but I like to keep my inbox management extremely simple. The inbox is for unread messages and anything you need to reference today.
For unread messages:
- Reply if needed, and file or delete the message.
- Delete everything you won’t need to reference later.
- Flag messages that you need to reference immediately (meeting confirmations, electronic tickets, etc.).
If there is more than one page in my inbox, something has gone seriously off the rails.
This is low-key and works very well for me, with my relatively low volume of messages.
Maybe you’d like to implement some more technology to file, reply, and organize automatically? Please share with the group if you have a favorite app or plugin that automates your email responses. There are also experts in this stuff who will help you streamline your business communications—well worth the investment if you’re so busy you’re missing money-making opportunities.
Folders? No Biggie.
Don’t get too worked up over folders. Search works pretty well.
Sometimes I set up temporary folders for research, and delete them later, including all the messages. No muss, no fuss.
One folder I am fastidious about is my “To Read” folder. Everything that’s just for information, that I don’t want to take the time to peruse during email time? “To Read.” It gives me something productive to do when the baby falls asleep in the car. Everything over a week old in that folder gets deleted. No mercy! Again, unsubscribe when you find yourself deleting the same messages over and over without opening.
Take Charge of Notifications.
Do you need your Facebook notifications to be sent to your email, or do you already check Facebook too much?
I’m not judging. Just saying.
Change your settings if needed. I, for one, need notifications if someone sends me an Instagram direct message, because I never check that. Anything else? I’ll see it.
Find yourself sending the same message over and over? Create a template and save some typing.
Managing Multiple Email Addresses
Phew. I don’t know about you, but with a quick count, I have… at least seven email addresses.
Now, here’s the thing. I don’t know how many emails you have, what you use them for, etc. What I do know, is that you’ve got to find your system and stick to it.
Logging in to “check” seven email addresses would take a long time. Longer than I have. So, I have notifications for some on my phone, and forwarding for others.
Forwarding can be convenient, but potentially confusing. Let’s say you have email@example.com forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org. When a client sends a message to email@example.com, you see it in your gmail account. And when you reply to that client, it comes from firstname.lastname@example.org. This may or may not be what you want.
This blogger uses a “master” account to manage messages from several blogs. That might work well if you have several accounts that don’t get a ton of traffic.
I’ll let the pros tell you how to merge a bunch of addresses into one gmail account.
Step Three: Increase Communication
Plenty of messages clogging up inboxes come from misunderstandings and missing information.
To increase understanding, keep your messages relatively short and simple. Put important information in bold or add bullet points. Use descriptive subject lines. Start a new subject when beginning a new conversation.
Hey Everyone, Can you meet on Monday at 4? Warm Regards, Angela
I can! Does that work for everyone else? Lu *~Live your dream~*
Hello, No, not me. How’s Wednesday looking? Best Wishes, Stevesie
NEVER AGAIN. Those three emails will become six, seven, or seventeen.
This kind of back-and-forth is an inbox killer, especially when more than two people are involved. Use a scheduling program like Calendly or Acuity to schedule one-on-ones. Do a Doodle to figure out a group meeting time. Work groups can share calendars to avoid all that Doodling.
When scheduling a phone call, I’ll just go ahead and write, “You can call me at 555-867-5309.” Maybe that’s not the epitome of etiquette, depending on the situation, but it helps us avoid Should I call you, or should you call me? and What’s the best number to reach you? emails.
Speaking of Phone Calls…
Sometimes—and I know this is frightening to many of you—it’s better to call than to email. I KNOW. Talking on the phone is not always our idea of fun depending on your personality and generation, but it’s more appropriate when you need a quick back-and-forth conversation.
Ask yourself before emailing: is this information best given in a meeting, phone call, or email?
(Hint: email is great when you need documentation later.)
It’s okay to turn your work email off at the end of the day.
It’s okay to ask people who contact you via Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or with message sent via St. Bernard, to follow up via email. You don’t need twenty places with different messages to remember and follow up on.
It’s okay to wait several hours before answering non-urgent emails. Email is not an instant message service. As long as you get back to someone within a business day, that’s fine. Yep, if they email you at 4 pm, you can email back at 3 pm the next day. (If they want to talk immediately, they can call you!)
It’s okay to put a vacation email out-of-office message and to really ignore everything when you’re on vacation.
Step Four: Make Your Website Work for You
Getting emails from your customers is a good thing! However, sometimes businesses get messages that are not from their true customer. Let’s try to cut down on those.
Your Marketing Should Tell Your Story.
Sometimes we’re so focused on one aspect of branding or sales that we forget the storytelling aspect of our website marketing. Your website should give clear impression of what you do, and why you’re the best person to do it.
A clear, accessible story will help cut down on questions from people who want a service that you don’t perform, or who aren’t the customer you’re hoping to land—including those who aren’t ready to pay your price point.
Clarify Frequently Asked Questions.
If you’re answering the same questions over and over via email, it might be time to clarify language on your website or add a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.
Cut down on your busy work, so you can put your energy into work that creates wealth.
Sound good to you? Let’s talk about clarifying the messages on your website.
Step Five (Optional): When You Just Can’t Handle It…
Look. Maybe there’s just more email than you are able to, or want to, handle.
Declare Email Bankruptcy.
I had a (wonderful) boss once who looked at all the files from my predecessor in my new-to-me office, and told me, “If there were a fire tomorrow, you wouldn’t miss any of this.”
If you haven’t read those 5,000 emails, would you really miss them if they were gone?
It’s nothing to take lightly, but there’s no law against just deleting large swaths of emails.
Hire Out Some Help.
Let’s do some math.
You’re spending 10 hours a week on email, earning you… zero dollars. Boo. So, you hire a virtual assistant, paying $15 an hour. Now you have the time to do the work you really love, earning $50 an hour.
You’ve just made an extra $350 in a week.
You can’t afford NOT to hire out a little help.
Virtual assistants can help with social media, SEO, email, data entry… anything you don’t love and are ready to say goodbye to.
Do it already, you successful job creator!
How do you manage your emails? Any awesome ideas that work for you? Let us know in the comments!
Can I help you clarify your message, so you can get more of the GOOD emails? email@example.com
If you liked that blog post, you would looooove my email newsletter.
It goes out once a month or so, and it’s a short and sweet way to keep up with the latest in business communications.