Currently, I have 11 emails in my email inbox. It’s not unusual for me to have even less than that. You might be thinking, “You must not get a lot of email.” Quite the contrary. I actually get a lot of email (over 10,000 emails in my storage right now). However, I have developed ways to tame the email madness.
Email is a nightmare for most busy entrepreneurs. At Amazing OBM, we are helping one of our clients get control of her email inbox. When we first embarked on this large project, she had close to 5000 emails in her inbox. Not sure how many of those were read or unread, but I know today, now in the middle of the project, her email inbox has 225 emails.
Email can be one of the most time-sucking tasks in our business. Not only does it take a tremendous amount of time to read and respond to emails, the time it takes to find the information we need is a huge waste of time. Let’s also acknowledge the stress caused by disorganization and missing communications from important people.
At the same time, I don’t think email is going away. So we must find ways to get control of this piece of our business and make email work for us, rather than against us. Here are the tips I use in my business to squash the email monster.
Cleanup and Organization
Do a Massive Cleanup
This here is the biggest undertaking you will have with email, but you absolutely can’t skip this step if you want to achieve sanity. One of the fastest ways to reduce your email inbox size is to sort your email by date and then throw everything older than the current year into folders by year. For instance, you will want to create folders for 2018, 2017, 2016, and so on. Keep only emails from 2019 in your email inbox. This will probably still be a lot of emails, but I can guarantee this exercise alone will reduce your inbox size considerably. We aren’t going to stop here.
Create Your Organization Structure
Now it’s time to start creating folders so that all your email can get filed away and organized. I suggest you start with a spreadsheet to help you organize your folder structure. Think about the high level areas of your business. For me, I have high-level folders for Amazing OBM, AOBM Team Members, AOBM Clients, Business Training, Inactive Clients, and Personal Emails. Within your top level folders, you will create subfolders to break email down even further. As an example, under Amazing OBM, I have folders for ClickUp Updates, Expenses, Software Vendors, VA Leads, and Website. Be careful that you don’t get carried away and create too many subfolders. You need enough to organize but not too many that you are overwhelmed with checking too many folders for email.
Set Up Filters to File Your Emails
This step will feel uncomfortable for some people because now you are going to start moving away from the traditional way of managing email, where everything comes into your email inbox. It is entirely too time consuming to have email hit your inbox, and then have to take an extra step to file it in the appropriate folder. Through a filter, you can skip the inbox and send your email directly to its proper folder. In my email, I have all my client emails (based on their email address(s) go directly to the client folder. This helps me stay focused on one client at a time when I am checking email. You can set up filters by keywords, email addresses, subject lines, etc. and in Gmail, when you set up the filter, you can automatically file all old email at the same time in the right folder.
File, Delete, or Unsubscribe
As you start going through all the emails in your inbox to set up filters, you will do one of three things: set up a filter and file the email in a folder, delete the email because it’s too infrequent to worry about, or unsubscribe from the emails to reduce email you no longer want or need. Your goal is a zero inbox. I know. This is going to feel really weird. But it’s exhilarating at the same time!
Read or Open all Unread Email
This is a very important step. You are now going to have lots of folders with emails. Many of them will be read, but there will be some that are unread. It is important that you go through each folder and read or mark “read” for all unread email. Otherwise, you will never be able to fully trust the unread emails in each folder that you need to address. As you can see from this screenshot, I currently have one “new” email in ClickUp Updates that needs to be addressed. There are no other new emails in the Amazing OBM subfolders.
Check Email Regularly
Now that you have all your email filed in folders, it is important to check all your email folders on a regular basis. Set a couple of times per day for you to go through each of your unread emails. You can respond to them, read them, or create a task from the email (more on this later). The longer you wait to address unread email, the more they will pile up and become overwhelming. If you don’t have time to check email regularly, it might be time to hire an executive VA to help with this task, or other tasks that will free up your time.
Be Careful What you Subscribe To
On a regular basis, make sure you unsubscribe from email you are no longer reading or needing. If you have emails you want to read but are a lower priority, create a folder titled “Read When Time” or something similar. This could be newsletters or training you want to read when you have extra time. If you receive a lot of promotional emails and you want to hang on to the discounts, create a specific folder for these types of emails so they don’t clutter your inbox. Turn off email notifications on any software you don’t need. Unsubscribe from everything else.
Be Selective on Email you are Copied On
Having email that you are CC on can clutter your email and increase the number of emails you need to address significantly. If you absolutely don’t need to see something, ask people to stop CCing you on emails. Ask to only see what is completely necessary. Encourage people to email directly with one another and pull you in only when you are needed. I know, as a business owner, this can be a hard habit to break, but eventually, we need to trust our team to handle things on our behalf without our input or eyeballs on the communication.
Use Other Forms of Communication Besides Email
Email is not the only way to communicate with people. Today, there are any number of modern tools you can use instead. On our team, we use our project management tool ClickUp to capture communications. We use Voxer to send voice messages to each other. We use Slack and sometimes text messaging. I would say that more of our team communication happens outside of email.
Transfer your Email Action Items to a PM Tool
Please don’t rely on your email to remind you of an item that requires action. If you’re anything like me, you surely won’t remember. You will likely get busy, more email will come in, and before you know it, your action email is buried. When I receive a request for action in an email, I either handle it right on the spot, or I use a Google Chrome extension to transfer the action item directly to my project management tool from email. I assign the task to myself or a team member, give it a date, and it goes into the queue. It is rare for anything to be missed on my team because of the power of our PM tool.
I’m sure there are other tips you or other business owners have learned about taming the email madness. Please comment below and give us all your best email advice.
Lori Young and her team at Amazing OBM are dedicated to making life and business easier for heart-centered entrepreneurs. Let us manage your projects, team, marketing, and day-to-day operations. We promise to deliver organization and efficiency!
10 Tips for Taming the Email Monster
October 22, 2019