Managing Emails In A Busy World
Being in the business of email marketing, I thought it would be fitting to share tips on how I manage my inbox with business and media friends.
1. Designate An Email Time – Constantly having email alerts popping up throughout the day disrupts your workflow and train of thought. When you schedule 1-3 times per day that you check email, you can respond to them efficiently and timely without spending all day focused on what is coming into your inbox.
2. Act Immediately – In the professional organizing world there is a phrase, “touch it once.” This means that as you are sorting through your closet (or email inbox), you pull out an item and make a decision on it one time rather than putting it in a pile to then sort later. This tip also goes hand in hand with the previous tip. After setting aside a specific time to focus on email correspondence, then get it the habit of read and responding right away. Use the two minute rule – immediately handle any email that you can read and responded to in two minutes or less. Your response to the email may be a direct response to the sender, or it may mean doing something else with it. That something else may be deleting the email, storing the email, or putting it in a holding pattern. That gets us to the next few points.
3. Delete Emails – Again, when you are in the habit of reacting immediately to an incoming email, you can delete it immediately. Your inbox stays clean and tidy very easily.
4. Storing The Email – Not all emails need a response immediately, but they do provide valuable information or correspondence related to a particular project or client. Organizing your emails with folders, categories, and other filters is extremely helpful in sorting the emails so that you can find them faster. Also, if they can be stored for reference and don’t need any sort of action, it can be helpful to filter them into the appropriate folder immediately.
5. Holding Patterns – Sometimes emails require action, but not immediate action. You may not have the information you need to fully respond, or you may need more time to write out a full response. When emails come in that fit this description, you can put them in a actionable folder. This folder is meant to be a place of that email to temporarily live in a holding pattern until you have time to act upon it. Each day, you then take time to address the list of emails in your holding pattern folder and appropriately respond to those that you are able to.
6. Use Rules – Many email programs like Outlook and Gmail allow you to set rules about specific types of emails. Use flags, “check” features, and color coding options to segment and categorize your emails. These rules will auto-sort incoming emails based on rules you set. Automation can be your friend!
7. Junk Folder – Junk folder filters are not perfect. Ever had one of your IMPORTANT emails land in a JUNK FOLDER? Us too! So be sure to set aside time to clean those out as well. You might find a birthday wish from an old friend or a valuable offer from a company you trust. Not all Junk is Junk.
8. Auto Reply – Depending on the frequency with which you respond to email messages an auto reply option can help set proper expectations for response times. If you are out of the office or simply in the field with clients during the day (and contacts are accustom to prompt responses to their inquiries) a delay in replying to an email can negatively impact you.
By following these eight steps, you CAN get your inbox down to zero emails. It may take discipline and time to get your inbox to this place initially, but the payoff is well worth it.
A Few More Tips While We’re On The Subject…
- Unsubscribe – As digital marketing and email marketing experts, telling people to unsubscribe is not necessarily our top priority. However, subscribing to lists that you never pay attention to is not beneficial either. Stay subscribed to the email lists that you find value in, and then unsubscribe from the rest of the chaos. This will dramatically help your inbox from overflowing with emails you are not primed for.
- Prime Your Connections – Close your email down at the end of the work day and on weekends. If you are seeking balance during your off-time, don’t respond to emails unless there is a true fire to put out. By waiting until Monday morning to respond, you are teaching your connections that you respect their email and its message, but that you take time off on the weekend. If you respond immediately on your down time, your connections will learn (and begin to expect) that they can reach you at any time.
- Think before you respond – Just like our words, once an email is “sent,” it’s out of our hands. Before you send any emails, make sure the message is one you wanted to send, and not one of hate, discord, or negativity.