Hands up if you struggle with your emails.
C’mon – be honest.
Do you have an overflowing inbox?
Do you find yourself deleting most of your emails without even opening them?
Do you send unread emails into folders for reading ‘later’ and ‘later’ never arrives?
My hand is raised for all three. I am hopeless with managing email. I always have been. I was notorious at my previous employer for having an overloaded mailbox and too many folders to count. While I rarely deleted emails I needed, I would have to use the search function to find anything – there was always too much sitting in there waiting for my attention.
Now that I work from home my issues with email have just worsened. With multiple email accounts I’m having trouble keeping up with all of them. Plus, I’ve been so intent on setting aside time to write that I’ve neglected to set aside time to deal with the endless emails that keep pouring in.
The final straw in this sorry tale? Finding important emails buried deep in my inbox, hidden under the sheer weight of crap that flows in day after day after day. Because I’ve buried my head in the sand for so long I missed opportunities for working with brands and for collaborating with bloggers.
All because I couldn’t manage my emails….
As I’ve shared previously, I’m determined to take blogging seriously this year. Which means I have to start treating it like a business. I have shared my plans for better planning my work so it’s time to put some effort into developing a plan for dealing with my inbox. If I want to be treated and respected as a professional, it’s time I acted as a professional as well!
With that in mind, here are my tips for taking control of your emails:
1. Commit to a full clean up of your inbox. It can’t be a half-arsed effort. If you are going to do this right you have to get down and dirty into your inbox and into all those nasty folders underneath. It’s going to take time and effort to delete the crap out of it. Be ruthless. Commit to a proper job – your inbox will thank you for it!
2. Unsubscribe from email lists. If you are like me, you tend to sign up to a lot of email lists in order to grab free ebooks and to give a blogger or a newsletter a go. If you are finding yourself deleting most of these emails without even opening them, it’s time to reconsider whether you should be subscribed to these lists at all. I recently unsubscribed from close to 50 lists in one day. It can be a painful process but I’m hoping my inbox will love me for the increased space and attention I will be giving it in future.
3. Turn off email notifications. Have you signed up to receive blog or social media notifications via email? It’s worth checking. Some platforms like Twitter automatically tick subscription boxes when you create an account, which leads to a lot of unwanted and unnecessary emails clogging up your inbox. Find the account settings in the social media platform applicable to you and turn off notifications that are being sent to you via email. This has made a huge difference for me – believe me!
4. Review your inbox folder structure. Do you have have folders set up to organise mail that comes into your inbox? They can be a handy tool to help sort out your emails and free up your main inbox but they can also become a burden if you just keep putting mail in them, never to be seen again. Make sure you review them regularly to see if they are still relevant. Can they be deleted? Merged? Updated? A good folder structure will make it easier to find emails in the future and allow you to more efficiently clear out your inbox.
5. Use “rules” and forwarding tools to automatically distribute mail. If you are looking for quick and automatic ways to re-distribute mail away from your inbox, look into setting up rules and auto-forwarding tools. Most email platforms will allow you to do this and it will save time in having to manually move mail items from your inbox into their applicable folders. Well worth investigating, however make time to regularly check the folder as per the tip above!
6. Ensure you have separate inboxes for personal and business email. This might sound obvious but it’s a valuable tip. In my case my personal and business emails come into separate inboxes but then flow into a single inbox so I don’t need to keep logging in and out of gmail. This is convenient for that reason but it has caused all sorts of problems for me in trying to keep up with the sheer volume of mail that is funneled into the one inbox. Separating them will help you keep on top of your business emails and ensure you are not distracted by personal mail instead.
7. Set up template emails to save time when replying to common enquiries. This is a no-brainer when it comes to finding ways to more efficiently manage your inbox. Analyse the type of enquiries most common to you. Is it possible to set up a template that will easily and quickly answer them? Having an email already prepared and ready for minor tweaking will save you hours in the long run. It also brings consistency and professionalism to your writing – a must if you are serious about getting down to business.
8. Set aside a set time everyday to check and respond to emails. This is definitely something I have put in place. I’ve set side 2 periods each day to check emails – between 9 and 9.30am each morning and between 5 and 5.30pm each afternoon. This way I will be able to remain on top of my inbox now I’ve reduced the number and frequency of emails coming in. And now I have templates set up, most responses should be quick and easy. And I should never miss an important opportunity again!
9. Review your subscriptions & notifications once a month. It’s not enough to do the hard work once – you need to keep reviewing your subscriptions and notifications regularly to ensure you stay on track. Set time aside every month to have another review of your inbox. Check to see if more notifications are creeping in. Review all existing subscriptions – if you haven’t read them in detail in the month following the big clean up go forth and unsubscribe. It’s up to you to ensure your inbox is working FOR you and not AGAINST you.
10. Consider setting up an auto-responder to ensure business emails are acknowledged. To tie everything else together, ensuring all enquiries are responded to automatically is a must. Again, auto-responders can cause issues if you then don’t follow up with a proper response within 48 hours but used correctly, they can be a powerful and professional tool for your inbox. An auto-responder can allow you time to formulate a proper response or to complete other priorities before tackling your inbox. It’s well worth considering if you are serious about taking control of your emails.