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managing your inbox

Managing Your Inbox With These 5 Steps

3 MIN READ

Managing your email inbox means more than simply staying on top of things. With your inbox clutter-free and in control, you and your team will enjoy greater productivity and clarity at work. It might take you a while to get on top of your inbox and bring your emails down to a level that you’re personally happy with. Along the way, developing more productive habits for managing your inbox is the essential step to building sustainable, healthy email habits. 

It’s entirely normal to feel overwhelmed when you open your inbox each day. People spend about 28% of their workweek dealing with emails, which equates to about 13hrs of low level, reactive work that rarely results in progress. Only 38% of the emails in the average inbox are important and relevant to your core business. This means the rest of all that administrative bulk is nothing more than noisy junk that needs to be cleared efficiently before you drown in the quicksand. That feeling is not imaginary. Research has proven that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover from an email interruption, which erodes away your peace and sense of control in your work.   

Let’s simplify this for you by setting up a simple system to respond more decisively to all those messages. The next time you open your inbox, choose which of these five categories apply to each unopened email and respond accordingly. 

Delete

Is this email essentially junk that you simply don’t need or want to read? This is an easy decision to make: Delete that email forever! 

You’re best also to decide this point if you ever want to receive this email again from this sender. If not, take 10 seconds to unsubscribe from this sender, or create a filter to automatically delete the email the next time it hits your inbox.

managing your inbox

Delegate

There will be emails that need to be dealt with, but not by you. Create a simple process to put that email on someone else’s desk. You could forward the email to a team member with a quick message to instruct them on how you want the matter handled. Or, if you’re comfortable with giving someone else access to your inbox, you could create a folder for them inside your email account. Then when they log in they can head straight for the folder with their name on it and get busy dealing with the messages you saved inside. Mastering the fine art of delegation is simple with more tips here.

Delay

Reducing the feelings of desperate urgency that can arise when emails come in is an essential benefit of managing your inbox well. When emails come in they reflect the sender’s agenda, which does not always align with your own. Set up ways to deal with matters when it suits you. You might ‘star’ emails that you plan to deal with later at a set time each week, or put them in their own ‘Later’ folder to be opened at a scheduled time that fits with your schedule. 

Reply

Many emails in your inbox can be cleared with a simple, quick reply. Bounce emails back to the sender with a super short response which keeps things moving and off your desk like a hot potato. Using templates if you can will make this process even quicker for you and your team. 

Keeping these emails short and sweet is key. Don’t be drawn into lengthy, unnecessary stretches of dialogue when replying to emails. The less time you spend typing, the faster you can move on to more important things in your day.

You might also want to think about including a message to explain your preference for brief messages in your email footer. If your core values permit this approach, you can write up a friendly statement like this for your email footer:

Thanks for your email. You might notice my reply is short and sweet. We do this on purpose. It’s not that your message is unimportant. It’s that we just love to keep things moving here at [BUSINESS NAME]. Spending less time in our emails is a big part of that. We appreciate doing business with you and hope you understand. 

Do

The last category of emails is the most important for you to work with. These are the ones that require you to take substantial action. They will be the emails related to ongoing projects, client work, supplier arrangements, business partnerships or other matters central to your business growth. Processing all your other emails quickly and efficiently will give you the time and headspace you need to do this ‘real work’ hidden away inside your inbox. 

Successfully managing your email inbox is a journey, rather than a destination. Be patient with yourself as you get busy clearing the bulk of your email overload. Be realistic about what you can actually achieve. Avoid falling onto the trendy trap of shooting for Inbox Zero. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.