“I gotta clear my inbox before I go to bed!”
This is one of the most common issues facing small business owners that we come across. It’s a situation filled with dread and can drag you down if it’s not managed strategically.
It can be as simple as a change in mindset or a specific strategy or two but we wanted to let you know that you’re not alone.
To help you out we have asked some of the most successful people we know to supply us with the strategies they use.
The “to-do” list never ends is simply one of my “home truths” that I share with students and the audience I am speaking too. Emails have become one of our daily items on the “to-do” list. The idea that our emails will miraculously disappear or stop ‘appearing’ in our inbox simply creates a state of being in more stress. Our mind attaches to the idea that we want the email “overload" to stop and then when the emails keep coming we experience more stress. We are not getting what we want to experience. Learning to accept that they are now part of our daily lives helps and with acceptance comes more peace of mind.
If you have email overload try the following couple tips
1. If you are continually being ‘spammed’ try and set aside 30 minutes a week to “unsubscribe” to the unwanted emails and delete.
2. If you like some of the content you are receiving from a ‘supplier’ but are receiving too many see if you can set a limit on the amount of emails you receive to once a week or once a fortnight, etc…
3. Set aside at least one day a week (more than likely your day off) where you do not address your emails! Your minds need a timeout too and continually pushing doesn’t honour yourself or create a healthy state of balance.
4. Prioritize the email list - quickly scan the emails for the ones you have to answer or are waiting on to respond too and then do so accordingly. This helps you manage the inbox and your time accordingly.
5. Still experiencing stress, close the computer and go for a walk breathing in fresh air to reset and create a better frame of mind to address the emails.
This is such a great question as I think more and more our inboxes are being bombarded and as business owners or entrepreneurs, we have many inboxes to oversee. I personally run 2 companies and still see some patients so I've literally got 7 inboxes to oversee.
I have a very systemised way of going through them. 2x a day I will go through each inbox and respond to prioritised items while those that can wait I shift to my main inbox. Since I travel a lot I also use the downtime of long international flights to do a hefty catch up on all the low priority inbox items.
Finally, I tell people that my inbox has been bombarded and that you may need to email me a couple times or email nudge me, I won't take offence. Or if it's that important, call me.
So how do I manage email… Such a million dollar question :)
The best thing I did to reduce stress levels was to turn off notifications on my phone when an email is received. My phone would so often be ‘pinging’ and lighting up that I had just got an email that it would cause stress… So now, no notifications and I only look at email when I want to rather than feeling ‘enslaved’ to it via my phone!
I am doing this new 7pm to 6am no work policy to help with the work/life balance. This means that at about 6:45pm each working day, I do a quick scan of my emails received that day and I respond to any urgent important ones that I need to. Even just a message in the subject line saying something like “hey Curt, confirming I got your email and will reply soon…”
Each morning, I will spend about 30 mins replying to any that I need to. The test here is what emails do I feel guilty about not having replied to. That is my test. So I will reduce the guilt by replying to them.
Beyond that, to control my email inbox (I still in general fight a losing battle), I send some emails to my personal assistant for them to take care of. I also every month or so will do a massive ‘back scan’ of my email inbox over the past 4 - 8 weeks and triple check that I have not missed any important email that I should have replied to. I always find a couple of SOS ones when I do this scan. This can take a good couple of hours by the time you go back weeks and weeks and reply to those important ones that you should not have missed in the first place.
It is best if you do not do long replies on your phone as likely tying on your computer is going to be way faster!
Personally I only use an auto-response when I am truly away from the office and it is a pretty brief message. I find those constant auto-response emails from people saying ’they got your email and will respond soon’ to be painful. So I do not want to bombard people who send me an email with an auto-response that adds no value to them.
I leave all emails that I need to do something about as ‘unread’ so that is my flag… System works well as if it is unread, I have to do something about it.
I do not file emails into folders or anything. For me personally, I have never seen the value in putting things into folders ie. what does it prove when I know I can find the email if I need to in my main inbox.
Hmmm, my email rules are pretty simple. I try to manage a zero inbox, meaning what is in my inbox still needs to be managed/dealt with. I don’t have any files, or folders. I archive everything and just use the search function if I need to find something. I also have a EA who helps by taking out any meetings that need to be organised too. Given my days are mostly face-to-face with people, emails are managed in the evening... just the way it is right now! Growing a business is not a 9-5.
Short emails are key I subscribe to the proverb ‘the more the words the less the meaning’ short meaningful emails take time and focus but they get instant responses
Hmmm that’s an interesting question. I’m quite fortunate that I only generally receive about 10-15 emails a day (on average) so my strategy is to reply immediately if it’s simple enough, or if it’s a bit more complicated I draft a response and then minimise it in my dock to return to by the end of the day. (That probably would stress the hell out of most people!)
Possibly a more useful tip that I have to offer is that when the email is a tough one to write and I want to get it right, I draft my response and then go and make a cup of tea to mull it over for a beat. I usually end up editing either the content or the tone and it’s good to go!
Go through emails in the morning - prioritise - reply one by one without getting distracted!
And turn off email while writing anything…