May 12, 2015

Decluttering Your Email Inbox

emailaddressAccording to my iPhone, I currently have 2,347 unread email messages*.  I only wish I was joking.  So today’s post is as much for me as it is for you.  With everything else you have to do as an entrepreneur, how can you work to stay on top of the seemingly never-ending email assualt?

If you feel overwhelmed by email, you’re not alone.  According to a report by e-mail marketing company Contatta, which was based on information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and reported by Entrepreneur Magazine, people in business spend the equivalent of 13 hours each workweek just on email alone.  13 hours!  That equates to 637 hours per year.  Think about what you could do with your business if you could refocus even some of those hours into other tasks!  (Check out this great INFORGRAPHIC from Contatta for some other interesting facts and figures about the role of e-mail in business today).

Here’s a few ideas for you on how you might be able to better manage your email inbox as well as the time you devote to it:

  1. Be brief!  First and foremost, don’t waste minutes crafting long, wordy emails.  No one has the time to read them anyway.  Be succinct and to the point.  The people you’re emailing will thank you.
  2. Minimize the back and forth.  Trying to set up a meeting?  How many emails have to fly back and forth before you and the other person are able to agree on a time?  Look for ways where you can say everything that needs to be said in one email without a need for the other person to write you back (saving you and them time).  In our scheduling case, tell the other party when you’re available or, better yet, us a calendar-scheduling program and share the link with them so that they can see when you’re available and sign up for a time slot that matches best with their schedule.  (I’ve been using a program called Calendly and it’s really cut out a lot of the back and forth hassle of scheduling meetings/phone calls.)
  3. Don’t reply all if only one person needs to hear what you have to say.  We all know this but yet so few of us do this.  Granted, your doing it may not prevent you from being in other people’s ‘Reply All’ but other folks will thank you and maybe those who haven’t yet caught on will get the message.  One can hope, right?
  4. Schedule email time into your schedule.  Dedicate some time during your day to reading and responding to emails but don’t keep checking your emails throughout the day and dashing off one or two responses now and then.  Keep the rest of your time free to run the rest of your business.  Are you worried that not responding to someone’s email in 15 minutes might spell the end of your business?  It can be hard to pull yourself away from those immediate responses but by only answering emails during certain times of the day it gives you time to think through your response carefully rather than hurriedly trying to get something replied to ASAP.
  5. Take a heavy hand to e-newsletters and other automatic emails.  As you look at your inbox, weigh whether each of those emails you’re receiving is worthwhile and for those things like e-newsletters or sales emails from a company you haven’t purchased from in 2 years are things you need to see in your inbox on a regular basis.  Opt-out of those that aren’t relevant or relegate them to another email address entirely that you check on a less frequent basis so that they’re not taking up space in your inbox.

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*In all fairness, this is a cumulative total from 3 different email addresses (personal and business) and many of them are e-newsletters, requests about guest posting (note – I’m not accepting new guest posters), and stuff like that.  I do read – and respond to – all emails sent in from readers!