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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 14 Ways to Conquer Your Company’s Overflowing Inbox

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 14 Ways to Conquer Your Company’s Overflowing Inbox


    Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of those involved in the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

    Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

    What’s your number-one tip for keeping email communication manageable in your business?

    1. Keep Customers Separate

      Aggregate all of your customer-related requests into one software system such as ZenDesk or FuseDesk. Keeping all of this information in one place allows the owner to get a bird’s eye view of all requests and answers, as well as keeping a large category of emails out of individual inboxes.

      Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

      2. Just Pick Up the Phone!

      Matt Mickiewicz

        When email conversions and discussions between team members start flying back and forth on the same topic, usually the best thing to do is to switch the medium to phone. It’s infinitely faster than having a lengthy debate over email, which can often evolve into a thread of 20, 30 or 40 messages.

        Matt Mickiewicz, 99designs

        3. Allowing Instant Messages

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          No more lengthy emails that never get to the point. Instead, my team makes sure we’re always available via IM so we can have conversations about what’s on our mind and get instant feedback. We’ve found this to be more efficient than letting emails sit in our inbox for hours or days — or get lost forever.

          Danny Wong, Blank Label Group, Inc.

          4. Let Someone In

          Louis Lautman

            You need to figure out what emails that YOU must respond to, versus emails that must be responded to. Who can you delegate other emails to? Create a new email address or have them login to your email to answer some. Also, do these emails even need to come in, or can you create an FAQ on your site?

            Louis Lautman, Young Entrepreneur Society

            5. Spontaneous Video Chats

              Instead of allowing threads of never-ending emails, encourage the use of Skype to chat and call team members whenever needed. Email can get out of hand sometimes so it’s important to resort to direct communication to get things done.

              Ben Lang, EpicLaunch

              6. Now, Not Later

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                I have found that when I let my emails pile up, not only does it take me more time to go through them later on, but it also psychologically creates a mental block when I see more than I can handle at one time. And instead of working through them, I just continue to leave them unread and unopened. I highly recommend keeping on top of them at all times, responding and marking down what I need to do.

                Steven Le Vine, grapevine pr

                7. Start Batching

                Lawrence Watkins

                  I learned this trick while reading “The 4-Hour Workweek” a few years ago. Try to only answer emails two to three times per day– for me, it’s 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. This makes me more productive in other parts of the day because I am not being constantly interrupted by incoming messages.

                  Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

                  8. Scrape the Important Stuff

                    Move your actionable items and important data off of email and in it’s own place. Utilize a business class email that will allow you to easily add contacts, create reminders, set appointments, and store documents while also being able to easily share those items with the rest of your team.

                    Jennifer Donogh, Young Female Entrepreneurs

                    9. Labels, Filters, Stars

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                    Arjun Arora

                      If you’re using Gmail, make the most of the various organizational tools at your disposal to help tame your inbox. Filters automatically routes emails and sorts your inbox before you even open it. Labels are a good for grouping together similar messages and making them easy to find later. Stars help make your inbox actionable by highlighting urgent messages and setting priorities.

                      Arjun Arora, ReTargeter

                      10. Throw the Boomerang

                      Michael Margolis

                        Stop using your inbox as a ToDo list and a WaitingOn list. The awesome Gmail plugin called Boomerang allows you to send emails, with reminders for that email to boomerang back after a set period if it goes unanswered. A priceless productivity tool for letting go.

                        Michael Margolis, Get Storied

                        11. Keep Clients at the ‘Camp’

                          We route all client emails via Basecamp, which allows the right person on the team to reply and run with it. It also keeps everything organized per project, so we don’t have to scratch our head wondering where that piece of communication was.

                          Nathalie Lussier, Nathalie Lussier Media

                          12. Minimize the Overload

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                          Derek Shanahan

                            We’re not fans of having long email chains, especially internally — we use intranets, chat rooms (with recorded history) and deliberately short face-to-face meetings to circumvent long email exchanges. But there’s only so much you can do to minimize email with outside parties, so we use customer service forums to avoid repetitive email inquiries.

                            Derek Shanahan, Foodtree

                            13. Don’t Forget to FollowUp.cc

                            Garrett Neiman

                              Without question, Followup.cc is the best way to take control of your inbox. With Followup.cc, you can send messages away to return at a pre-specified time. This has enabled me to send myself reminders, and also remind myself to ping people after an appropriate window of time. Most significantly, it takes all not-so-urgent email out of my inbox so I can focus on what’s most important.

                              Garrett Neiman, CollegeSpring

                              14. Break the Chain!

                              Devesh Dwivedi

                                Email is part of your business culture! Encourage picking up the phone, talking in person, texting and IM-ing. By spending less time writing and sending emails, you will help other people to spend less time reading them, and if everyone uses emails that wisely in your organization, you’ll have less emails and more real communication.

                                Devesh Dwivedi, Breaking The 9 To 5 Jail

                                (Featured photo credit: Overflowing Inbox via Shutterstock)

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                                1 13 Characteristics of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs 2 5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All 3 10 Simple Habits Every Effective Manager Needs to Learn 4 10 Ways To Help Your Employees Have A Healthy Work-Life Balance 5 Top 10 Workplace Safety Tips Every Employee Should Know

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                                Last Updated on March 29, 2021

                                5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

                                5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

                                When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

                                What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

                                The Dream Type Of Manager

                                My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

                                I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

                                My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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                                “Okay…”

                                That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

                                I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

                                The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

                                The Bully

                                My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

                                However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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                                The Invisible Boss

                                This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

                                It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

                                The Micro Manager

                                The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

                                Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

                                The Over Promoted Boss

                                The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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                                You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

                                The Credit Stealer

                                The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

                                Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

                                3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

                                Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

                                1. Keep evidence

                                Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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                                Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

                                Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

                                2. Hold regular meetings

                                Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

                                3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

                                Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

                                However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

                                Good luck!

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