21 Ways to Manage Your Out of Control Email Inbox
It’s not always all about the apps and add-ons when you’re learning to manage your inbox like a pro. There are plenty more time-saving tips and techniques you can quickly put into practice.
Here are twenty-one ideas—pick and choose the ones that grab you the most.
#1: Create Groups (now called Labels in Google Contacts) If you regularly need to send the same email to groups of people (e.g. clients, team members) consider creating groups/labels so you can mass-mail to these very specific groups. For Gmail groups/labels, read this from Google.
#2: Make Email Templates Do you send the same type of email, over and over? If so, take one of your sent emails and turn it into a generic email template that can be customized to suit. Save it in a simple .TXT file: Even keep it on your desktop. Or save it in your Drafts folder, copy, paste and tweak.
#3: Clear Your Inbox First Thing Delete everything you didn’t get around to reading first thing in the morning (or whenever you open your email for the day). Or else read them immediately—but don’t leave them cluttering up your inbox.
#4: Turn Off Notifications Don’t be reactive. If your email client or program gives you popup notifications (visual or audio) turn them off. Otherwise, you risk becoming like Pavlov’s little dogs, training yourself with every ping to respond on cue! (And while you’re at it, you may want to turn off social media notifications like Facebook too!)
#5: Create a Specific Time Daily for Reading and Responding to Emails Part of not being reactive (and creating a great new habit): Set aside a specific time slot for dealing with email. Schedule it in! Give yourself a start and finish time: If you do, you’ll most likely find that you grow much more efficient at getting through them quickly. And if you find yourself with time to spare after responding to the last one, reward yourself—go sit on the verandah with a glass of iced tea and smell the roses, or go for a walk round the block—whatever fun activity you can fit into the remaining time in your email slot.
#6: Make Search Your Best Friend Keep things simple—if you want to find an email on a specific topic or from a specific person, just enter your keyword in the Search box, and hit Enter.
#7: Answer Immediately Yes, that goes against the wisdom of setting aside a specific daily time period—but there’s a lot to be said for taking immediate action if you can easily answer something in less than two minutes.
#8: Create Subject Lines That Are Helpful—to You Have you ever read through ninety emails from your best friend, trying to find the one that contains their new address—only to end up asking them for it—again? (And losing it—again.) If you know that feeling, write subject lines that will be highly significant to you for business, when you’re running a Search. (Example: “Interview Request March 2017-Ginger Andrews”—the latter being your guest’s name: Yes, the one you’re sending it to.) Try it. It really works!
#9: Use the free service Unroll.me to unsubscribe from emails The free tool Unroll.me lets you instantly see a list of all your subscription emails. You can either quickly unsubscribe or add to a daily “Roll-Up” where you get just one email a day with all your subscriptions inside that one email.
#10: Send “Closed” Emails for Business This doesn’t mean you have to sound like a sergeant major, but if a communication is business-slanted, and you don’t want to be hooked into several chatty letters back and forth in response, keep your initial email or response short and to the point. Watch out that you don’t “invite” chatty responses. (Example: Commenting “Wow, this heat wave sure is tiring” at the beginning of a letter telegraphs that you have the time to chat and virtually begs your correspondent to write back telling you how hot (or cold) it is where she lives, and what she’s doing about it—with a personal question thrown in for you.) On the other hand, finishing off with a nice, “closed” statement like “Stay cool in this heat!” feels friendly, but doesn’t invite a chatty response.
#11: If it Needs to Be Documented, Email It By all means, save yourself time by sending quick SMS text messages if all you need is the simple answer to a question—but if the answer is something you need to refer to later, then use email. Tip: If you’ve got a business phone number be sure and use that and not your personal mobile phone for clients. (You can even get a free Google Voice business line here. I use it and it’s free, I can text, I got to pick from several different area codes and phone numbers, and it looks professional having a separate business line.)
#12: Outsource Your Inbox Create a Gmail account for certain types of non-confidential business communications. Create a folder for routine business emails that come in. Purchase a monthly block of time from a Virtual Assistant who specializes in email management—and have her manage that specific email account.
#13: Don’t Always Use Email Are you making clients cancel or changing appointments on them via email? Don’t! Use a self-scheduling service or app, so they can cancel and reschedule without the need for multiple emails. Services like Calendly will send out automatic reminders or confirmations for you. There’s even a free version of Calendy. Check out my video tutorial below to learn how to set up Calendly.
#14: Create Filters to Organize Your Email
Filters help you to manage the flow of your incoming emails in a big way.
#15: Create Tags and Colored Labels
Labels with colored tags are excellent ways to spot important emails quickly and easily. For example, I have a green-colored “Client” filters help you to manage the flow of your incoming emails in a big way.
#16: Give Yourself a Limit
Decide on the maximum number of emails you ever want to see in your inbox, and do your best to reach that magic number. (E.g. 10)
Once you’ve reached it, you’ll find it’s incredibly easy (even a game) to maintain that number. (Just try not to hang onto more emails than will fit comfortably on your screen.)
#17: Prioritize Your Emails
You can even organize them before you respond. That way, if you are interrupted or run out of time, the essential emails will have been followed up on or sent.
#18: Give Short Answers
Not every email needs a formal business letter, seven paragraphs long. If you can answer with one or two words or sentences, and you know your respondent will also appreciate brevity, answer quickly with a simple phrase or word. (E.G. “Yes, thanks.”)
#19: Apply the 4-D Rule to Every Email
The 4-D rule is simple. Every email that comes into your inbox, look at it and run your own email filter—“Delete? Delegate? Defer it? Deal with it!”
If you say that while looking at an email, you’ll make quicker, more effective decisions on what action to take.
#20: Adopt a “Once-Only” Approach
When you deal with an email, do your best to optimize your approach so that it doesn’t keep coming back to haunt you. This involves:
- Making sure you answer every question (clearly)
- Acknowledge what needs to be acknowledged
- Confirm what needs to be confirmed
- Use “closed” statements
#21: Use a “Waiting for Response” Folder
If you send out an important email that requires an answer (especially within a time limit), create a “Waiting for Response” Folder, and funnel the email in question over to it. It will help to stop things falling between the cracks.
Don’t just get your email inbox under control—use these tips to turn it into a super-aide for your business: One that will help keep you clear and organized—and help you build your reputation.