For those of us who conduct business online, email is a necessary part of our daily lives. A lot of productivity gurus believe there are a lot of time wasters and distractions in our inbox–which is true. But, for some of us, part of our income lies in our inbox. I think effective email management is absolutely necessary and can be done in a way that is customer service friendly yet provides you with the freedom to actually WORK within our businesses.
At the end of the year, I try to do a “Operation Zero Email Inbox” Initiative. I try to deal with an eliminate my emails as close to zero as I can by the end of the year so that I begin the new year with a clean inbox…it sounds really good in theory right (smile)?
If you’re not sure how to manage your email inbox to get toward a zero inbox, try the 4 D’s of Decision Making Model. In essence, you do one of the 4 things below with every email in your inbox:
Delete It. Which is probably what we can do with most of our emails once they are read. If it’s an email from a listserv, the most important question to ask yourself is, “Is this list adding value to my life or the life of my brand?” If it’s not, not only should you delete it, but you should remove yourself from the mailing list. If you spend every day, deleting that email (especially without reading it) then you might as well delete your name from the list.
Do It. If it can be done in under two minutes.
Delegate It. If you have someone to delegate a task to, by all means, DELEGATE AWAY! Most of us that run businesses (or have side hustles) are a team of 2 or less, so this isn’t always an option. But you can also look at it as a task that maybe you can outsource to someone else. There are several places online where you can find short term, or gig related people to do various tasks.
Defer It. If it’s something that needs to be done, but you can’t do it right away, I would flag it for follow up and add it to your to-do list with a due date.
As you are beginning to process your email inbox, here are 4 other ways you can improve your email efficiency.
4 Ways to Improve Your Email Efficiency
Keep Project Management and To-Do Lists Open while checking email: While I am checking email, I keep programs like Asana and my To-do list open so that I can add necessary tasks to my to do list when necessary. If there is a task that I think of related to an email I’m reading, I will jot it down so I don’t lose it. If I need to do a task and attach it to the email, then I will either flag the email for followup or save it in a place where I can retrieve it later.
Use my 30-10 Email Management System: Spend 2 days a week dealing with 30% of your inbox and another 4 days dealing with 10% each day. This may not always get you to a zero email inbox, but it will keep your emails at a manageable level.
Use Autoresponders. As you begin processing your emails, notice any patterns that may develop. Are you answering the same types of questions repeatedly? Then it may be a worthwhile task to create some autoresponders or draft emails that you can either automatically reply or copy and paste into an email.
Gmail has created a feature called, “Canned Responses–” which is a close cousin to autoresponders. How it works is you can send a pre-written response to an email with perhpas only minor tweaks for personalization. You can create the responses and save them as a “canned response” and give it a title. When you want to insert a canned response, all you have to do is go under “More Options” and “Canned Responses” and insert the response you’d like to receive. This feature, should cut down your email response time significantly!
Another type of autoresponder to consider, is one to advise people as to when you will check emails. Tim Ferris, author of the 4 Hour Workweek, is a huge fan of this! Here is an example you can use:
Greetings, Friends [or Esteemed Colleagues],
Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail twice daily at 12: 00 P.M. ET [or your time zone] and 4: 00 P.M. ET.
If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 12: 00 P.M. or 4: 00 P.M., please contact me on my cell phone.
Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better.
It is up to you as to whether or not you give out your cell phone number (or your Google Voice number). For me, the only people that I really want calling me are the ones who already have my cell phone number or ones I gave it to in an email. Also don’t lose the chance to connect people more with your brand in your email autoresponse. Read here for 4 ways you can brand your autoresponse.
An even more advanced way to set up autoresponders is to set up an autoresponder to forms on your website. When you set up forms, you can give it a specific subject. You can set up a rule or filter on your email client mangement side (Gmail, Outlook, etc.) to send back a certain response based on that subject. For instance, if someone completes a form requesting you to appear at an event, you can send back an email with your media kit and link to a calendar to set up an appointment with you or someone from your team to discuss the event in further detail.
Set up a time to read non-business related emails. I do not advocate never checking or reading non-business related emails. We want to shop, laugh, read emails from relevant listservs, catch up with others, etc. So set up a time daily that you can do that. It’s ok, doing so does not make you less productive–in my opinion. Honestly, I’d rather read an email in my inbox than go on someone’s website to read it where I have the tendency to become even more distracted and click on random things–that’s how I tend to waste more time. But if it’s a specific email in my inbox, I can read it and move on to the next item.
Are you going to join me in Operation Zero Inbox? If so, tweet me at @trendysocialite and let me know!