Does your email inbox cause you to feel anxious and overwhelmed? Do you feel like you’ll never be able to get to it all? I can’t imagine living without email, especially working in a virtual business. I have a system in place to keep my emails organized that works well for me, but once in a while it seems like there are just so many!
If you struggle to stay on top of your inbox, here are some steps that may help to reduce your anxiety.
Delete. Glance over your inbox and immediately delete any emails you don’t need to read or keep. This includes ads, sales, etc. “You ought to be able to discard 80% of them just by looking at the title” says Bob Pozen, a senior lecturer of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of Extreme Productivity.
Use Rules. Many email programs (including Outlook and Google) allow you to set up rules to direct email to certain folders as soon as they come in. This saves you the time of filing them, but makes sure that you keep them for later reference.
Set up Files. This can be any system that works for you. You may only want broad categories such as “Waiting” or “To-Do”, or you can set them up by the day of the week they need to be handled, by each particular client or any other way that makes sense for your business.
Check email at set times. This is a good trick for letting you focus on the jobs that need to be done without being distracted by incoming emails throughout the day. I like to check emails in the morning, midday and in the evenings.
The Two Minute Rule. According to David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, if the email takes less than two minutes to read and to send off a short answer, just go ahead and take care of it now. It will probably take less time than filing it away to get back to later.
Schedule Time. For longer emails that will take more thought to respond to, you can flag for follow up, block time in your calendar or add to your To-Do list.
Utilize email apps. To keep your emails under control when you’re on the go, you might want to use an email management app such as this one called Mailbox. Do you need to archive, save it for later or delete? This can all be done with a swipe of your finger.
The best tip for managing your email might be just to develop a system that works for you and then stick with it. Once your system is in place, it will be much easier to get your head around your inbox first thing in the morning or after a long weekend.
What are your favorite email tricks? Have you found that as a small business owner you’ve had to unsubscribe from so many blogs and newsletters to cut back on the clutter? I’d love to hear from you!