If you run a business, chances are that you’re often overwhelmed by the number of emails in your inbox. When you’re juggling so many balls and have little time on your hands, it’s easy to let the messages pile up.
Unfortunately, the longer you leave your inbox, the more emails inflate it, and the more daunting the task of clearing them becomes.
Not only that, but office workers spend an average of 30 days a year on email. That’s a huge amount of time wasted that could be used elsewhere!
Fortunately, there are management tips you can implement and habits you can build to help you keep on top of that bursting inbox. Here are my top tips for managing your emails.
- Keep a clean inbox
- Set aside dedicated time to go through your emails
- Make use of a filing system
- Use automatic email filters and rules
- Check your spam settings
- Set up an out-of-office
- Use an email client
- Assign your emails to someone
1. Keep a clean inbox
Like clutter around the home or in the office, a messy inbox causes it’s own issues. It’s distracting, it makes us anxious, and it inhabits productivity. So, if you’ve got lots of emails hanging around, the first thing to do is to clear them out and start from a clean inbox. This is no doubt a daunting task at first, but once you do it, you can start keeping it that way.
You don’t necessarily have to have 0 emails in your inbox (what a dream!) but by allowing only a few important ones to remain (i.e. ones you need to respond to), you can focus on actually dealing with them rather than worrying about the number of unread messages you have.
2. Set aside dedicated time to go through your emails
The majority of people don’t have to spend every moment of every day in their inbox. If you think you’re one of the few who do, really think about it and ask if that’s 100% true. Or is it just some skewed form of FOMO (fear of missing out)?
Not only do you lose focus and get distracted every time a new message appears or you check for updates, it will ultimately end up taking you more time to get anything done. Multitasking may seem like it’s an effective way to work, but it has been proven that multitaskers do less and miss more.
So assign some time each day to check and deal with your emails. That way, you can get on with other work without that distracting ping (remember to turn any phone or desktop notifications off too!).
3. Make use of a filing system
Filing systems are amazing. They help create order in the chaos and you’re likely already using one for your computer files. You can implement this in your emails, too, by creating folders and subfolders for relevant categories. When you’ve dealt with an email, if you need to retain it (rather than delete it), sort it into a suitable folder. That way your inbox remains clear and it’s easier to find a message that you want to refer to or check in the future.
4. Use automatic email filters and rules
Automatic email filters or rules are another great way of sorting your emails. They allow you to immediately redirect emails from your inbox to a different folder where you can deal with them later. For example, if you’re signed up to a number of email newsletters that send you regular updates and interesting articles, you likely don’t read them as soon as you receive them. You can automatically filter these into a Newsletters folder and go through it once a week in a dedicated timeslot. That way they’re not clogging up your inbox and having to sift through non-urgent emails to get to those you actually need to deal with.
Do you really need or want every newsletter you receive? How often do you read them and do they provide any useful or entertaining information? At best, they hold good information that you never actually read and at the worst they don’t benefit you at all.
Get rid of them.
Hit unsubscribe and only keep those that you actually intend to read.
6. Check your spam settings
Does it seem like 90% of your inbox is spam? There’s maybe something wrong with your spam filter in that case, so double-check your settings. Most email providers will come with three levels of automatic spam filter (often None, Average and Strict), and you can choose which suits you best.
If you repeatedly receive spam from the same address and you’re unable to unsubscribe (which is a red flag anyway, as it’s against GDPR), you can also add specific email addresses or phrases to your spam filter so emails containing those are automatically sent to the Junk folder.
Be wary of spam filters, however. Each email provider varies in how effective it is, and I check my Junk folder a couple of times month just to make sure nothing important has been misdirected.
7. Set up an out of office or automatic reply
Out of office messages aren’t only for when you’re away. If you’re regularly asked a lot of the same questions, consider setting an automatic reply that includes an FAQ responding to your most common questions. That way you don’t have to spend your time repeating yourself, enquirers get a quick response, and you can remove any such emails from your inbox because they’ve already been dealt with thanks to your FAQ!
Automatic replies can also be used when you’re particularly busy. If the recipient knows that there’ll be a delay getting a response (because they’ve read so on your automatic reply), they’re less likely to chase you in a day’s time, therefore filling your inbox even further.
8. Use an email client
If you make use of a lot of email addresses and find it difficult to keep on top of them all, then import them all into an email client such as Thunderbird. This helps you see all your inboxes at the same time, in one place, and includes most of the functions of a regular email provider.
Read my guide to organising your emails with Thunderbird.
9. Assign your emails to someone
The good news is you don’t have to deal with every email yourself! Whether staff or a virtual assistant, there are people who can deal with emails for you. And it’s okay to ask for the help!
You can assign messages directly by dropping them in a file or another inbox. Or use a ‘gatekeeper’ to monitor the main inbox. They can forward any emails that you specifically need to see or respond to.
Get in touch to find out how The Singing VA can help you manage your emails.
Your extremely full inbox may seem daunting right now. However, by setting aside a bit of time and implementing certain habits you can clean out your messages and prioritise what’s important. Ultimately you’ll save time and stress.
For more information on my services and how a VA can help you free up some time, please get in touch for a no-obligation chat.