Let me ask you a question: How many emails do you have in your inbox at the moment? You can be truthful, 20, 40, 60 and 100+
An inbox full of emails can lead to long work hours, stress for entrepreneurs, and procrastination. This is why many people feel so busy that they don’t have enough time for the things they really need. An inbox that is too large and difficult to manage can make it hard to focus on the things you should be doing. My work week is now 30 hours. I am able to spend most of my time outside the office. I thought it would useful to share my top 10 tips to manage your inbox and keep it under 20 emails.
Tip 1 – Still using Outlook? Stop using Outlook! Stop!
You should move quickly to cloud-based solutions like ‘Google Apps for Business’. My entire business was transformed and I gained valuable time back for my team and myself. You can access your entire Outlook email history and all future messages on Google Apps for a minimal cost. You can no longer create folders and spend hours searching for emails. It is well worth the effort. Sean can help you set it up remotely, no matter where you live.
Tip 2: Disable any visual or auditory alerts that inform you “You’ve Got Mail!”
It’s impossible to resist the temptation of looking at the email to see who or whatever is there. Even though we are working on something very important, it’s hard to resist the temptation of jumping to the inbox. This can lead to distractions and loss of focus. Your inbox is controlling you so I suggest you disable any notifications or pings that indicate that you have a new email. You will be more productive if you take back control of your inbox.
Tipp 3 – Set a time and date for ‘Email Response’.
Find the best time to respond to emails. Make a schedule and mark the time. This could be between 9-10 and 3-4 p.m. It may not always be possible, but it will help you to maintain some consistency in checking your mails. Your inbox should not be open for the rest of your day. They will call you if it is that urgent! Is there any email that can wait for more than a few hours? Problem is, you expect people will respond immediately and you feel under immense pressure to do so. You will be more productive if you have a structure to your day.
Tips 4 – Four Options – Respond, Delegate, Respond, or File
Keep your inbox under 20 emails. Never read the same email twice. You will be able to decide what you want to do with it immediately. You have many options once you have received an email.
– Transfer it to someone else
Write back. Most responses take less than 2 minutes. These are the replies that pile up.
– Save it away. Use Outlook folders or Google Apps labels to organize your emails
My inbox is my to-do listing. The only items left are those I have to act on. I then use my coloured labels from Google Apps to visually identify which priority emails I have and for which part of my company. All other items are removed from your inbox as soon as possible. You want to keep it below 20.
Tip 5 – Use Rules to Organise Your Emails
There are many ways to stop newsletters and updates being delivered to your inbox. You can unsubscribe from those you don’t read. You can create rules in Outlook and Google Apps to allow you to choose which emails you want to read but not prioritize. The email will then go directly into a folder that you can review at your leisure.
Tip 6: Use the AwayFind app to be alerted of urgent emails
This App can help you keep track of urgent mails if you don’t want to be checking your email more than once a day. The App can be used to tell important people and sync with your calendar to keep track of who you are meeting in the next days. This means that if you receive an urgent email relating to a client or meeting, you don’t have to be in your inbox. You can receive a notification via text message or another form.
Tipp 7 – To receive fewer emails, you should send less emails.
Although it sounds obvious, many people get a lot of emails because they spend too much time sending them. You will see a decrease in the number of emails you get if you lower your output. Give up on the computer and pick up the phone. This is especially important for internal communication. You can do this if you have colleagues or a team. Email is often the easiest way out. Instead of relying on email, use other communication methods and you will see your inbox shrink.
Tipp 8 – To manage your expectations, use your ‘Out Of Office’ Auto-responder
You will probably use the ‘Out of Office” response to let people know you are on vacation. You will feel overwhelmed when you return from holiday with an overwhelming amount of emails. Your next time you travel, make sure to leave your office 1 day before your departure date and then keep it on for at least 2 days after your return. This will allow you to relax and catch up. You can also continue to use your responder after the first week. My usual reply is “Thanks for the email.” It has been 2 weeks since I was last in the office so it might take me longer to reply to emails that arrive during the week beginning [Date]. I will respond to your email as soon as possible. If you have an urgent question, please call my office at [Number]. Thank you for your patience. You are managing expectations, and not under pressure.
Tips 9 – How to Schedule Meetings in an Effective Way
To schedule meetings, you can use a free tool like Tungle.me. Your inbox can quickly fill up with simple arrangements and to-and-fros on diary details. Tungle.me can be linked to my Google Calendar, as well as many other calendar types such Outlook. It uses your real-time availability and helps people make appointments. To invite others to meet you, create an account. The other party will see the dates that you have available, and can choose the one that suits them best. There are no more back-and-forth emails about meeting arrangements.
TIP 10 – Use a bridge email where is relevant
Send a brief email acknowledging that you received an email if you are concerned that the email will take longer than you have time for today or this week. Tell the person when you can return with an answer. They will be grateful that you took the time to reply and will usually accept the time frame you propose. You can now focus on your priorities and have not offended anyone.
This is what I hope you find useful. It can be difficult to keep your inbox clean and to manage all the other tasks you have. If you have any tips or tricks, please leave them in the comments. Your new goal is to keep your inbox below 20 emails. If that seems impossible, try to reach half your current total. Thank you for reading.