Is Your Email Inbox Consuming Your Workday?
Top tips to get your inbox working for you, not against you!
Are you one of those who keep pressing the send and receive button every few minutes to see if a new email has come through, but yet don’t seem to have time to reply to them, or even action them? Do they sit in your inbox for days or even weeks on end, and your inbox ‘unread’ figure is in its 100s?
How many times have you opened an email and thought ‘Hmm, not sure what to do with this. I’ll deal with it later’, then closed the message and never go back to it again? One email quickly turns into many emails, often hundreds.
By developing a new approach to processing your inbox, it can help you gain more control, make running your business more efficient and provide you with more time to deal with your clients and to actually carry out the work you’re meant to be doing, and the work that makes your business succeed.
As a professional virtual assistant I have helped many business people gain control of their emails and continue to support them on an ongoing daily basis.
Here’s how you can do the same today:
1 – Set up a simple and effective email filing system.
Create subfolders for the emails you receive
i.e newsletters, receipts etc – these folders will be your reference folders. Reference folders are folders that require no action but things you would like to keep to read at a later date (go back over these folders once a month and delete old ones)
Create an action folder – this folder will contain the emails that require action
You will soon see that your inbox isn’t actually consumed of emails you need to action. By separating your emails this way, you won’t feel quite so overwhelmed. You can see instantly what emails you have to action and can prioritise accordingly.
2 – Schedule a time to action your emails
Turn off your email notifications now! It is nearly impossible to complete anything with constant interruptions from the little alarm bell, or the window popping up telling you that you have another email, let alone the other daily distractions of Twitter, telephone and people popping into the office ‘just for a chat’. So it is extremely important that you schedule a time in your diary each day to sit uninterrupted to go through your emails and action them. Don’t leave it for tomorrow, you’ll have twice as many emails tomorrow than you have today.
Schedule a time in your dairy, yes actually PUT IT IN your diary, and mark it as busy. Don’t answer the telephone during that time, and close down Twitter! Get that inbox clear!
3 – Delete it, Do it, Delegate it, Defer it
When you’re sitting down going through the emails, you need to actually do something with them! don’t just read them and say ‘oh I’ll deal with that tomorrow’
Use the following approach:
1 – Delete it
I will bet if you look at your emails, a majority of them can be deleted. Yes you’ll probably cringe at the thought of deleting an email. ‘I might need it later’ you may say… but really do you? Will you really need it again? If the answer is no then delete it!
2 – Do it
If you can’t delete it, think about the specific action it requires. If it can be done there and then and takes less that 5 minutes then do it. Get it out of your inbox there and then.
This might be replying to the email, unsubscribing from a mailing list, filing the email in another folder in your email structure, or even make a phone call. If it’s going to take longer than 5 minutes, reply and tell them you will get back to them, and then either delegate it or defer it (see below)
3 – Delegate it
If you can’t action your email within 5 minutes, think about whether it requires your input, can you delegate it? If you can delegate it, do it right away. Delete the message if you can delegate it or move it to your ‘action’ folder to do it when you have time – but remember if it’s the latter, schedule a time in your diary to complete the task!
4 – Defer it
If you can’t delete it, do it in less than five minutes or even delegate, then add it to your action folder, and/or your to-do list. Schedule the appropriate amount of time in your diary to sit down and actually complete the required task.
Because this is your dedicated email processing time, you need to defer it to a more appropriate time, otherwise the emails further down the list won’t be dealt with.
A professional virtual assistant can help take the stress out of your everyday email worries. From just ½ an hour each day, a VA can help minimise your inbox, reply on your behalf, schedule appointments where required and even take care of things whilst you take a well deserved day off.
A virtual assistant can even alert you via Twitter or text if an urgent message has come in!
About the author: Kelly Cairns, owner of KC Virtual Solutions, provides exceptional administrative support to clients in the UK, US, and New Zealand. Kelly specializes in social media; managing everything from Twitter campaigns to extensive social media strategies. Kelly actively manages Facebook pages for lMetro Radio Arena, among others, and has provided social media strategies for companies such as Hot Vouchers and Universal Studios. Learn more about Kelly’s services by visiting her company website.