Picture this: You log into your email account to find a certain message, only to find yourself barraged by all of your unread emails. Half an hour later, you’ve reached nearly a zero inbox, but you’ve just spent 30 minutes without even pulling up the original email you were after.
Sound familiar? If you’re anything like me (or most professionals, for that matter), you’re probably quite familiar with the feeling of being trapped by your email inbox. Not only can a busy inbox be a weight on your shoulders, but it can also be a time consumer on your daily schedule.
With that, here are some of my top tips for managing your inbox, saving you time in the process.
This is a real Catersource email folder...
Save it for the office
One of the worst habits one can pick up is waking up to check your email. In addition to starting your mornings in a stressful fashion, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the happenings since you last checked. Next thing you know, you’re late for work with nothing but coffee for breakfast. Use the time before work to take care of yourself and your needs for the day – once you’re feeling grounded and in a good place, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running. If you absolutely must check before heading to the office, keep it simple by deleting all of the junk emails so the important messages are waiting for you at work.
Block off times for email
In order to avoid that feeling of being prisoner to your inbox, break the habit of checking it every 10 minutes. Turn off email notifications on your phone so your work flow is not interrupted throughout the day. Instead, set aside 15-minute periods to address your inbox – the frequency certainly depends on the amount of emails you receive, but three times per day is a good place to start. Consider starting your morning by responding to any important matters, checking in again after your lunch break, and then once more at the end of the day.
These days, there are so many ways to streamline your email processes, so it’s best to take advantage of them to maximize your time. One of our favorite tools is Boomerang for Gmail, which allows you to schedule out the sending of your emails, as well as set up reminders to follow up on certain emails. Another great method for simplifying your emails is the use of templates. Surely, you have a number of emails that always go out for the same reasons (i.e. new client welcome, prospect follow-ups, etc.), so save yourself the time by creating templates to use each time. Gmail has the capability to store your templates through Canned Responses, but even a folder of Word documents with your most-used messages can work in a pinch.
A zero inbox may seem like an impossibility, but with a few tweaks to your routine, you’ll be on your way to a more mindful inbox while saving yourself time (and a headache!) along the way.
Kevin Dennis is the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and the immediate past national president for WIPA.