I have a friend who has NOTHING in her inbox. NOTHING. She is relentlessly vigilant, deletes items mercilessly, and files things that she needs to keep. But even that is a small number of emails.
I can’t even imagine an empty inbox.
Another skilled email master’s inbox is never empty, but it is also never a time suck. She’s meticulous about setting times to go through her emails, prints out important items and diligently adds “to dos” to her list and then hits delete. A Jedi Master.
We all use email. And your approach to email is either a time suck, or an efficient tool.
As we start the new year, finding ways to change bad habits to make ourselves more effective with our time, less stressed and more productive is a good thing. Cleaning out your inbox to start fresh is a great start.
Here’s 4 ways to make it an efficient tool:
This is my email habit that I need to break. If it’s in the inbox, I need to do something it. But then I quickly get overrun. I forget to delete the ones I’ve dealt with. Some include good information that I “might” need down the road…
Not efficient. And I miss important things.
Using your inbox as your to do list only leads to frustration, overwhelm, and missing important tasks.
If you’re serious about getting your email life sorted out, you have to go through all those emails. And depending on the size of the task, that might take some creative planning.
- Break it up into batches and set a time limit.
- Sort by sender – there’s usually batches of people you can delete.
- Pay attention to what you feel you need to keep and why, most is likely not necessary. Become ruthless.
Put every email you have read somewhere else.
- Delete – which is really just archiving it, and you can search for it when you need it.
- Print out the items that need immediate attention and put a due date on them.
- File useful future information in only a few subfolders of general categories.
- Flag or star to sort by urgency if you leave some emails in your inbox that need attention.
- Set up rules for the distractions – you know the ones, your favourite store, other marketers, weekly business updates, newsletter emails, purchase receipts – and block a time to read them like you would a magazine or the newspaper.
- Unsubscribe from the ones you never read (not ours of course).
Ideally, all that should be left is small list of important emails that need your action soon, but you can’t get to right now.
Once you’ve got your inbox to a manageable place, maybe even empty, then you can begin again.
You know you can waste hours if you don’t use this time efficiently, so block a time that works for you to check email. This isn’t the time to follow through on the emails, only to delete, print or file them. Check in once a day at your designated time (or times) and then leave it alone.
David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done suggests the “Two-Minute Rule”.
If an email takes less than two minutes to read and deal with, then do it immediately, even if it’s not a priority. Typically, it would take longer to read and file it than it would to just take care of it now.
Other emails need to be added into your schedule based on their topic – marketing related email during your focused marketing time, staffing during operations time etc.
Turn off the bings and dings. You do not need a chime to sound every time an email comes in. That will only distract you and your curiosity will get the better of you.
Instead, add a calendar reminder to check your email and keep to that new schedule.
Consider adding a signature byline to your outbound emails (I check email twice a day at X and X times and will reply if necessary. If you have an urgent need, please call me at XXX-XXXX).
Dedicate time weekly or monthly to declutter your inbox, unsubscribe from unnecessary emails and reevaluate your organization system.
We’ve all become so conditioned to using email as a form of communication that it is hard to resist. But just because an email has come in doesn’t mean it needs to be dealt with immediately. If its really urgent, the sender won’t reply on email, they call or text.
So get started, spend some time in this quiet first week of the year giving yourself a fresh start.
And when you find yourself thinking about how you want your business to grow this year and what you want to do about marketing, we’ve got you. We can manage all your marketing for you, to help make you more effective with your time, less stressed and more productive.
But, cleaning out your inbox to start fresh is a great beginning!
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