Do you feel like you spend countless hours writing, thinking about, organizing, or reading email? Ever look at the clock after reading emails and wonder where the time went? I know I’ve had that experience.
At one point in my life, I personally was spending so much time on email that I once sent an email to a friend of mine, and the subject heading was "my inbox is going to kill me!"
Did you know that American workers spend 28 percent of their work hours sending and answering email???
Email is a fantastic tool that helps you communicate quickly and efficiently. However, it’s so easy to get stuck in a habit of incessantly checking your emails or using email for personal instead of professional use at the office. This can add minutes, if not hours, onto your work days. You might get so stuck in email mode that you never get to the most important tasks of the day — the ones that really help you move forward.
Sometimes, you get so many emails a day that it’s overwhelming and you avoid dealing with it until your unread emails fill more than one screen.
Not responding to emails leads to missed deadlines, frustrated clients, and broken promises. But you can get out from underneath the crush of email – I promise!
The organizational steps I’ve provided below may seem obvious, but often it’s the most obvious tactics that get overlooked. By following these easy steps, you can become the master of your email!
Step 1: Separate the Personal From Professional
- Don’t mix business with pleasure. Eliminate personal emails from your work day. Send all personal emails to a separate personal email account that you check either outside of work hours or at a scheduled time during the day.
- Set boundaries. Ask your family and friends to use only your personal email address, not your work address.
Step 2: Reduce Incoming Emails
- Block spam. Get a powerful spam blocker and set your email security to the highest setting. You’ll save time by not needing to manually delete those pesky spam emails.
- Consider a second address. Use a unique email address when signing up for services or registering for products that require you to give that information. For example, when ordering office supplies or setting up monthly utilities payments, you’ll often be asked to provide an email address, and the electronic receipts you’ll receive should not go into your spam folder. When you set up a unique email address for these kinds of registrations, you’ll be able to keep these emails separate, they won’t get lost in your spam folder, and they won’t clog your inbox with non-urgent messages.
- Don’t put your business email on public contact info. In addition to reducing junk mail, you can reduce the number of random people who want to contact you but who do not need your personal response. On your website, business cards, letterhead, and the like, use an information or general email address that can be answered by a team member. This will help keep your professional email inbox limited to emails that need to be answered by you and you alone.
Step 3: Get Organized
- Set time limits. Instead of checking your email each time a new message appears in your inbox, set aside certain times during the day that you read and respond to emails. You’ll be surprised at how much time you gain. (You may even want to apply this rule to texting and instant-messaging, which are also huge time-sucks!)
- Decide what’s important. You don’t have to rush to answer emails, and you don’t have to answer everything immediately or even the same day they’re sent.
- Delegate. If you have a team, you don’t need to answer all your emails. For me, I got back so much time when I got clear on which emails I needed to answer personally and which I could allow a team member to answer for me.
- Archive. Don’t let your inbox become a storage facility for email you’ve already read. Use the labeling function to categorize emails by use, and then hit the "archive" button. Your important emails will be safely stored and your inbox will be empty.
- Delete. This step is often the most difficult to embrace, but when you’re finished with an email, often it’s good to delete it. Of course you should archive any emails containing deadlines, contracts, promises, and that sort of thing. But there’s just no need to retain unimportant emails such as conversations deciding what to order for lunch or emails containing recurring reports. Let them go and enjoy that empty inbox!