5 Steps to Taking Charge of Your Inbox

Email is both a gift and a curse – enhancing our productivity and overwhelming us at the same time. It makes asynchronous devices possible. Email acts as written documentation, and enables the busy entrepreneur to supply customer contact beyond usual business hours. It’s a very valuable tool.

However, we have now seen people are completely overtaken by inboxes containing a huge number of emails. How is it possible to manage a large flow of communications? Below are a few tricks that will help you overcome your electronic nightmare:

1. Don’t look at emails like you would instant messaging.

Does one feel like a Meerkat glancing at your emails whenever the notification chimes or appears on your screen? If you want fewer interruptions during your workday, start with your email. Turn off both visual and audible electronic mail notifications. Instead, get into the habit of checking your inbox five to ten times daily. An email isn’t an instant message which demands an instant reply. Most of us would be overwhelmed if you received an email response within the hour, never mind a minute. Also, if you are replying to emails in record time clients are either going to think you are overly keen or are sitting twiddling your thumbs, or both!

2. Don’t use email when other channels of communication may be more appropriate.

Even though email is a great communication tool, sometimes it’s not always the best way to go. Use email to convey shorter messages such as a time and place for a meeting, or to pass simple instructions. Email isn’t really appropriate for complicated communications. If your email will most likely turn into a long winded back and forth then a phone call or Skype call will be more effective and may save you valuable time. It’s wise not to use email for discussions that involve emotions, difficult or controversial topics or where there is a strained relationships between parties. It may be best to handle this face to face if possible as it’s near impossible to convey tone over an email.

3. Process the four “Ds” of paper management.

Email is an electronic form of paper therefore the same rules must apply. When an email appears, you can:

  • Do it: Act on the email immediately after which delete it.
  • Delegate it: Forward the email on to the appropriate person. If you feel that you will have to follow up then mark it on your task list, along with a reasonable response time, rather than keeping the email as part of your inbox.
  • Dump it: If the email has no relevance to you or your business then delete it. Try your best to maintain high standards for your inbox. If it’s important but needs no action then create a separate folder to archive it into.
  • Delay it: Avoid this if you can. If you cannot handle the email using one of the first three ‘Ds’, move the email to your task list with a follow-up date to ensure that it does not get lost. I tend to find that the longer you leave an email the harder it becomes to respond, so make sure you action it before it becomes a chore.

4. Decrease the number you receive.

Often the best defence is a superb offence. Discourage others from sending you non-business related emails. Get off distribution lists that not apply. Unsubscribe from communications you won’t ever read. Create a separate email address that you use when purchasing items on the internet.

5. Use filters and rules.

Most email programs allow users to direct emails from specified senders or those with particular words in the subject line directly to subdirectories or the trash. Learn to use these timesaving features.

Email can either be your best friend or the worst headache ever. These proven techniques will help you get your email under control making you more productive.