Email overload is a chronic state for many business owners and workers. From constant message alerts to non-stop back-and-forth question and answer sessions to neverending spam that gets through your filters, studies say the average person spends over a quarter of their day dealing with email. But that doesn’t mean it has to be this way. You know perfectly well there are better ways you can be spending your workday to increase business and get through your workload more efficiently. Let’s look at some ways to get that time spent handling emails down to a more reasonable amount.
Separate Work From Personal
This one should be obvious, but many people opt for just one email account for everything or occasionally mix in personal with business. You shouldn’t have any Groupon deals or Facebook friend alerts in your business email account. Leave personal distractions for later: your business account should have only the emails you need to deal with for your work.
Organize With Folders and Tags
Don’t simply separate your work and personal accounts, organize your work account as well. If you’re a small business owner, you have to wear many hats. Separate sales and client emails from co-worker and employee emails from contractor and service provider emails from bills and invoices, etc. This allows you to deal with just the emails you need to deal with right now and not have to be overwhelmed by the mass of other messages clogging up your inbox. I myself have about 10 different folders that I can check on an as-needed basis.
Schedule a Time For Email
Just because you can receive emails on your phone and read then on your desktop all day, doesn’t mean you should. Yes, a prompt response is usually expected but you have your own schedule to stay on top of and you need to stop dropping everything to reply to a message. Schedule two or three specific times in the day to deal with email, just like you schedule the rest of your tasks.
Set a Time Limit
Emailing can be infinite so not only do you need to schedule times to start checking emails, you need to set time limits to stop checking or writing emails once you’ve started. Schedule a small block of time and email only during those times. And be strict! Don’t fall into the “Let me just take care of one more message” trap.
It can be stressful knowing that co-workers, clients, or employees are sitting around waiting for your response. Consider adding an auto-response to your email account that tells people when you check your email, when they can expect a response, and how they can get in touch with you if it’s an emergency.
Unsubscribe From Junk
No matter how much we try, we over-subscribe to newsletters and updates and our email addresses end up on countless marketing lists. That cool housewares store’s newsletter seemed like a great idea at the time but deleting it every week takes actual time from your day. Handle unimportant senders immediately: Unsubscribe from their lists and nip it in the bud. A good tool for unsubscribing from many lists quickly is Unroll.me, a very simple little tool that can be quite effective at slowing the stream of junk to your inbox.
Create Template Emails
When you’re emailing clients, leads, project breakdowns, or anything else that you send out often, you’ll usually use the same stock wording in your message. Just like an automatic signature, create a few email templates to avoid writing the same things over and over again. Or check out the fabulous program ActiveWords that will substitute any text for a few simple keystrokes. This gives you even more fine control and virtually eliminates retyping of common responses.
Never Open The Same Email Twice
This is a big part of the Inbox Zero principle that is growingly popular on the web. When dealing with emails, it’s important to make a decision and act immediately rather than keep saving emails for later. By simply acting on each email immediately, your inbox will stop overwhelming you with stuff you needed to get to days or weeks ago. Keep your inbox clean and even retask it so that you’re dealing with things you really can easily take care of.