How to successfully manage your email inbox without going completely insane.
It’s Monday morning. You grab your cup of socially distanced coffee, wander along to the office (or back home if you’re lucky enough to be able to work from there) and fire up the laptop.
You open up your email and your heart….sinks.
More than a hundred emails to sift through, no way of knowing which are important, which are time-gated, which you can safely delete. Sorting through the weekend build-up of emails is a task nobody looks forward to, particularly when there are more important things to be getting on with, but it is one of those things, like death and taxes, that you simply can’t get away from.
Death, Taxes and G-mail.
Well weep and wail no longer, heave a sigh of relief, and send up a silent prayer of gratitude, because I have two simple tips which will help you to stay on top of things and make that Monday morning email funk a thing of the past.
1. Keep your inbox clear.
It’s called ‘Inbox Zero’ and it’s been one of my most successful tools in keeping my emails at a manageable level. It involves a bit of simple organisation, but it really is a life saver. It helps you to prioritise the emails you receive, and to triage them into a manageable amount. I have several folders which I use on a day to day basis to help me with this. I sort everything into the right folder, and then, when my inbox is at zero, I dive into the folders and go through the emails in order of importance.
Action – emails which need to be responded to / have some sort of action in response go in this folder. It’s my ‘red’ folder and here go all the emails where the ball is in my court to do something.
Waiting – This is my other main folder. If the email needs an action to be taken, but that action is not mine to take, or it needs to be left for some time, and not to be sorted out there and then, the email goes in this folder. I usually make sure I’ve added something to my calendar at the same time as I read it, so I remember when the action needs to be taken, or followed up on.
Reference – This is where I put emails which I’ve been included on, but don’t necessarily need to do anything about. I’m usually on the ‘cc’ list for the email and have been included in the ‘reply all’ email chain. I want to keep the email as it has information that is pertinent to me, but there’s no action I need to take.
Closed – this folder is for emails where there is no further information that is relevant to my situation now, the issue has been seen through to its end. It’s an archive, really.
Now, imagine this – for every client you have, you create a folder. So, let’s say I have 4 clients, called (very imaginatively) Clients A, B, C, D and E. I would create a folder for each of them, and within each folder I would create four subfolders – action, waiting, reference and closed. Whenever you create a new folder for your email system, you automatically create the four subfolders within it.
Can you see how you now have a really easy way of filing the emails, as well as a brilliant way of immediately sorting them from out of your inbox and into an order which you can tackle?
Having this system will save you from the insidious and annoying clog of emails that sit in your inbox, never to be looked at again, but never filed because you just weren’t sure where to put them.
2. Make good use of filters, and secondary email addresses.
Not that kind of filter!
A lot of the stuff that comes into our inbox is not spam as such, but is stuff that we don’t really want in our primary email inbox.
Hubspot, for example, will send me an email whenever I get a new subscriber to my website. So will my website. I end up with two emails telling me the same thing – and actually I didn’t really need to see either of them, because I also get a notification on my phone.
I also get a lot of newsletters and subscriber-based emails from other companies. I do want to see them at some point – but the main inbox of my business account is not that place – it distracts me and makes it harder to focus on the emails that need immediate attention.
Two ways to deal with this are:
Set up rules. This is easy to do in either G-mail or Outlook. I have a rule, for example, that if an email comes from Hubspot with the word ‘subscriber’ in the title, it is immediately filtered off into a folder which I have (again, very imaginatively) called ‘Website Subscribers’. There is a similar rule in place for emails coming from Wix with similar words in the title. About once a week, when the number of unread emails in that folder makes me twitch, I pop into it, check to make sure the filter hasn’t swept up something I didn’t want in there, then select all and click ‘mark as read’. Happy days.
It would be equally easy to do the same for the newsletters and things I receive, but that is more time consuming to set up, and there is an easier way…
Set up an email address especially to sign up to newsletters with. I only ever sign up to newsletters in which I am interested, so they definitely aren’t spam, but nor do I want to confront a load of newsletters which I don’t have time to read on a Monday morning, so whenever I sign up for a newsletter, I use an email address I have set up specifically for that purpose, so they never appear in my business inbox at all. That means that when it gets to brew-time in the Katie Stone empire, all I have to do is flick on the kettle, open up my secondary email inbox, and choose which newsletter will go best with a nice strong cup of Yorkshire Tea and a Hobnob.
Of course, you may find that the very idea of going to all this trouble is more than you can bear.
Business owners have a lot of stuff to get through in a day, and not enough hours. IF you can think of something you’d rather be doing that sifting through your inbox each morning (and if you can’t then you should probably be worried!), why not pay me to do it for you?
In less than an hour I can sort those emails through for you, flag up the ones you need to see immediately – and it can all be done before you’ve even had chance to have your first brew in the morning. I can add all the bits and pieces that come up into your diary for you and send you a summary so you know what’s gone where.
Equally, if your inbox is now just so messy that you wouldn’t even know where to start in getting it down to zero, I’m your gal. Let me in, I’ll rummage around, sort it all into folders and show you how to set up a filing system that will work for you. Then, if you want me to, I’ll stay on top of it for you so you never get into a mess like it again.
Have a peek at my website and get in touch – I can give you the precious gift of time (because let’s face it, there’s never enough).