Are you facing email overload? Email management is an area that seems to haunt me. I don’t even want to share the number of emails sitting in my multiple inboxes. Recently, I committed to becoming more organized with my emails as my business opportunities grew. Email is a major source of communication for me so missing an important deadline or an order could impact my reputation and my wallet. Definitely a no-no!
Email is a valuable tool that has revolutionized the way that we work. When used correctly, email is a terrific time saver and productivity tool. For many of us, without access to the type of email we’re used to using today we would not have the careers that we have. But, for it to remain a tool of productivity and not a drag, it’s important to learn how to manage it better.
Use Labels and Folders
Every email software comes with the ability to automatically put emails in to particular folders or add labels to them as they come through. It will greatly reduce your stress if things go into folders as they come in, so you can take one look and differentiate what is an emergency and what can wait until later.
I have folders set up for different newsletters, groups and contacts I interact with regularly. When I am working on a special product, I have a filter set up specifically for those contacts to ensure I can easily access pertinent information.
I, also, have lots of emails from store mailing lists – those are all automatically filtered into one folder and checked (and cleaned out) periodically. I have put myself on a strict budget so there’s no need to see sale emails and be tempted to spend outside what I have allocated.
Check Email Regularly
Don’t allow too much time to pass by before checking your email. You don’t want to be tied to your email but you don’t want thousands of emails piled up either. Check your email on a regular schedule, and then deal with each email accordingly. Set a reasonable target number of unread emails to have in your inbox(es).
The only exception to this for me is weekends and vacations. If you are going to be away for an extended time or not able to easily access your email as you normally due, utilize the vacation option on your email. This lets contacts know you’re not ignoring them and shows you do have work-life balance.
When someone has sent you something in your email such as paperwork, forms, important information or something, be sure to quickly hit reply and say “Thanks! Got it.” It’s that simple. You do not always have to respond about the item they sent immediately, instead you can download the item, put it in a dated file and/or tag it as a task to deal with later.
Read, Respond and File
Before there was email, there was snail mail. We all learned that the best way to check the mail was at our desks, near the file cabinet as well as the trash can. Nothing has really changed. When you check your email you should read, respond and/or file it away depending upon the email. You can even, in most email programs, turn an email into a scheduled task.
Reduce Incoming Emails
Turn off notifications from social media; unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read but that you did sign up for. You can use a service called Unroll.me to get it done fast. The service will return a list and you can then just choose which ones you want to keep and which ones you want to unsubscribe to. You add the things you want to see to your daily roll up, which enables you to view them when you want to, but not clutter up your email.
Create a Disposable or “Burner” Email Address
If you like to read a lot online, enter lots of giveaways, coupon, any online activity that requires you give out your email address frequently – create an email designated for anyone who doesn’t require a business email address and for whom prompt reply will not be needed. You can always delete that email address and create a new one as needed. This can reduce what you receive in your primary email exponentially.
Learn Your Software
A great example is the ability to “un-send” emails in Google email programs. This is one of my absolute favorite features and many people do not know this exists. How often have you hit send and realize you forgot to attach a document or copy someone? You only have about 30 seconds to realize you should un-send it and click “undo send,” but it’s possible. If you use Google, make sure that you use this. (I, also, love that Google will give you a reminder if you reference an attachment in the body of your email but do not have anything attached!) If you use something else, find out whether or not you really know how to use your software to its fullest potential. If not, then you’ll want to train yourself on how to use all the features your email program offers.
If you have a lot of customer service emails, don’t handle them yourself. It’s important to understand that since it’s your business, many of those customer service issues can take you a long time to deal with due to your emotional attachment to the issues. Instead, hire someone to take care of customer service. They will alert you to the most pressing issues that only you can deal with and handle the rest. There are tons of resources for virtual assistants that can assist with this at an affordable rate.
Getting control of your email will enable you to become more productive, organized, and more effective at doing your job, running your business and keeping in touch with family and friends. You will feel more free and accomplished if your email is organized and not out of control.