Is the Email Monster one of your business problems? How much time do you spend reading and responding to – or simply deleting – emails? How much unread email currently clutters your inbox? If you’re like most entrepreneurs, the answer (in both cases) is far too much!
In fact, if you were brave enough to actually time yourself, you’d very likely find you spend two or even three hours each and every day just dealing with email. No wonder you feel like you don’t get anything done. You need some strategies for building an email system that will tame the monster.
Auto-File Your “To Read” Emails
We all do it. We open an email, realize it’s a newsletter we love, an important announcement, or information about an upcoming event, and we close it with a well-intentioned, “I’ll read that later.” The trouble is, when later comes, we either can’t find the email, or don’t even remember that we wanted to read it.
What if you had a folder on your computer where all your “to be read” emails waited just for you to come by and discover them again? How empty would your inbox be then? Through the power of filters and folders, just about any email client can take care of this task for you.
Simply set up a folder called “To Read” or something else equally clever, then create an email rule or filter (as Gmail calls them) to deliver certain messages to that folder when they come in. Make a rule for your favorite online newsletter, email from your college alumni association, your local chamber of commerce, or even your sister.
But here’s the trick to it: You have to actually schedule time to go and read these emails. Don’t let them just pile up in there, because all that does is move the problem from your inbox to your “to read” folder. Make time to read them, then respond, file, or trash accordingly.
Turn off Notifications
Are you easily distracted by email? You’re not alone. That little red number declaring the number of unread emails, or the pretty little chime that announces the arrival of a new message is an invitation to click over and see what’s new.
Turn it off. In fact, turn off the automatic checking for email if you can. That way you can purposefully decide when to go read your email, rather than being notified of a new message every 5 minutes.
Chances are you’re on multiple mailing lists – and most of them you probably never read.
Click the unsubscribe button. Be ruthless. You can always sign up again if you miss the content, but for now, eliminating those emails from your inbox will save you a lot of time and trouble.
Getting a handle on email is one of the toughest things for busy small business owners, but with a little planning and some self-discipline, you can start using email as the powerful tool it is. As a email ninja your old monster will no longer be stealing much of your time.