With how important email is to running a business, it's a bit shocking how many people are slaves to their inbox. Or, worse yet, missing out on business because they don't have any systems in place to handle the influx of emails they receive on a daily or weekly basis. Below are a few of our favorite tools for getting our inboxes under control and staying organized.
Email is one of the most widely used tools in the modern world.
Most of us are crippled when our email goes down, even for a few minutes. We shudder to think what would happen if it went down for days at a time.
With how important email is to running a business, it's a bit shocking how many people are slaves to their inbox. Or, worse yet, missing out on business because they don't have any systems in place to handle the influx of emails they receive on a daily or weekly basis.
Be more efficient.
Email is a powerful tool that. One that can help you be more efficient and organized, and save you a great deal of time when used properly. The key is to take a look at where you struggle the most and to find the tools that will save you time and energy.
Here are 5 of our favorite tools for getting our inboxes under control and staying organized.
1. Make your inbox do the work.
Whether you're Team Inbox Zero or Team IDGAF, there are ways to set up your inbox so that it can do a majority of the heavy lifting. We're big fans of the Priority Inbox from Gmail, as well as using labels and filters to pull out any non-essential emails from our inboxes. That way, the emails that we ARE seeing get our full attention and we aren't wasting our time deleting spam or filtering out the unimportant stuff.
Related: If you really want to get crazy about organizing your inbox, here's a great post from Jesse Chapman on using labels and filters in your Gmail account.
2. Create templates for the things you get asked about the most.
If you find yourself writing the same emails over and over, it's time to get some templates in place. It will save you time and allow you to put a well thought out and thorough email together. This is great when it comes to FAQs, client onboarding, session reminders, and follow-up. Our favorite tools for creating templates are Canned Response in Gmail and Evernote.
Related: Here's a great post on creating your own away message or autoresponder that can do some of the work for you.
3. Cull the fat.
Chances are, there are more than a few emails hitting your inbox that are merely taking up space. From newsletters to community listservs to sales fliers from your local drugstore, they inundate your inbox and take up a lot of mental energy.
The key here is to be honest with yourself. How many of those emails are you actually reading versus how many show up in your inbox on a weekly basis? Services like Unroll.me can help you declutter the newsletters you're not reading and you can set up filters for the ones you check in on occasionally so that they skip your inbox altogether.
Either way, removing those emails from your inbox allows you to read what's most important to you when it's most convenient for you.
4. Read, respond, and archive.
When an email lands in your inbox, there are a few different things that happen.
- It remains unread.
- It gets read and stays where it is.
- It gets read, it gets responded to it, and then it stays where it is.
- It gets read, it gets responded to it, and it gets archived or filed it away.
While it's tempting to do 1, 2 or 3 (let's be honest, we've all done them at one point or another), Option 4 is the one that will help to keep you most efficient. If you can't respond to something right away, then leave it in your inbox as a reminder to revisit the task at a later date.
Which brings us to number 5.
5. Block out time each week to clean up your inbox.
If you do nothing else on this list, we implore you to make time each week to go through and respond to your email. Regardless of how organized (or not),you think you are, emails have a way of slipping through the cracks. Particularly the ones you've set aside for when you were in front of your computer or if someone else needed to respond first. Fridays and Mondays are always a great time to do this, as it can help to set your priorities for the week.
Related: If Time Blocking is a concept that excites you, check out this article from Leah Goard. And if time management and productivity are your consummate struggle, this post on how to get more done is for you.