Once, a coworker and I were having a discussion about ways to more effectively manage email. She said “I have this thing. It bounces on my screen so I can’t ignore it every time an email comes in. That way I make sure I don’t miss anything.”
This wasn’t my idea of effective time management.
Email is important. It’s a vehicle for communication between you and your customers and your employees. You have a problem when you get to a point where email manages you instead of you managing email, which seemed like the case with this little bouncing ball that the team member had.
I receive over 300 emails a day. I could easily be answering emails all day, but then nothing else would get done. Managing these emails effectively is crucial to my focus and productively during the day.
Here are tips on managing that overactive email inbox so you too can focus on what is most important in your business.
1. Get Organized
Set up folders for all the emails that you need to keep so you have an effective way to file and store email rather than leaving them in your inbox.
2. Turn off notifications
Notifications are constant disruptions to your day.
Reading an email takes longer than just a few seconds. Therefore you must completely shift your focus to that email and away from the project you’re working on. An email requires you to read it, make a decision, take action or file the email away for later, then refocus on what you were doing before the email came in.
Every time you disrupt your focus, it’s harder for you to complete the task at hand in an efficient and effective manner.
3. Have an Emergency Plan
My clients know that if they need an urgent response than they can reach me via text message or they can call me. Email gets responded to within 24-48 hours. Not every email is urgent, but a lot of times we treat every email like it is which takes your energy away from your priorities.
Scrub your inbox by deleting and unsubscribing to newsletters and email lists you don’t actually read. Stop hoarding newsletters and emails you’re never going to read later because if you don’t have time to read it now, chances are you are not going to read it when it’s “old”. Give yourself permission to say “I had very good intentions when I kept these but I will never have time to read them and it’s time for them to go.”
5. Mass Delete
Control all – delete is a beautiful thing. I do this every so often for any email I haven’t read or filed for the last six months, which usually means that the chance of me actually reading it is slim to none.
6. Use your Mobile Device
Learn how to reply using your smart phone and if you have an iPhone then use the VIP function to easily scan messages from key contacts, customers and or employees. This way you’ll be able to quickly sort through the volume and find what’s important.
7. Take Action Once
As soon as you read and respond to an email, it should be deleted or archived. This will leave your inbox with nothing but a manageable number of new emails or those that still need your attention.
I have a folder in my inbox specifically for items I need to take action upon or respond to. This allows me to quickly go to one file and respond to current outstanding requests.
8. Schedule Time for Email
Don’t check your email every 5 minutes. Schedule a couple of times a day to scan, respond, and manage email. Give yourself a time limit and you will be amazed at how much you can get done.
Use “Out of Office” responders when you are on vacation or out for a day. This lets those emailing you know that you aren’t ignoring them and they will be a priority for you when you return.
10. Time and Place
Be aware of the disruption email can be creating for the important relationships in your life. Checking your email in the evening is fine, so long as it isn’t interfering with your life outside of work.
We have all had someone check email on their mobile device when we are talking to them and felt the sting. Don’t deliver this sting to others.
11. Hire Help
If you can’t manage email yourself than you can hire someone to help you. Find someone who can manage your inbox and respond to email for you.
To win the war on the over bombarded email inbox, make a plan using the 11 tips above and see how your productivity on what’s truly important increases drastically.
Featured photo credit: White Workspace with MacBook/Viktor Hanecek via picjumbo.com