Email management is a pervasive problem that can quickly become a bigger problem down the road if left not managed efficiently.
Here are three simple ways that you can tackle your emails and start feeling a greater sense of accomplishment in your efforts:
#1 – Dedicate a specific block of time each day to check incoming emails and really commit to keeping that time
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but if you are anything like me who is busy serving clients, creating that next big idea, and become forgetful as a result, the emails can quickly pile up after only one day. Getting into the habit of checking emails at around the same time every day will help you to be consistent to manage emails so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.
You see, I simply prefer texting over emails. However, emails are still a necessary part of business and they keep coming. Therefore, I must keep a regular and consistent schedule to avoid overwhelming myself by having to spend literally hours to clean my inbox so that I don’t lose time away from activities that will generate income.
Depending on your work load and demand with receiving emails, I recommend setting aside a half hour to an hour each day to check incoming emails. Pick a certain time of day (morning, afternoon, or evening) or split that time to morning and night when you will go in your email account(s) to open, respond, and take action. Then set a reminder to alert you when it is time to check emails.
A great tip that I learned from the book ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ (a good read by the way) is to set an auto-responder to let your senders know that you will be checking and responding to emails twice daily at specific times and provide those times that they will expect a response from you. Also provide a phone number where they can reach you if the matter is urgent and needs your immediate attention. That way your senders can appreciate knowing that they can expect a response as you transition to more efficiency and effectiveness.
Note: if your work heavily relies on emails as part of your necessary business operations, then perhaps decrease to checking emails to four times daily without compromising your workflow to get tasks done while also meeting the needs of your market for better customer service.
The good news is that we don’t have to be our own accountability partner to remember to check emails every day. We have access to many different tools such as a smartphone that most of us carry these days in our pockets, which has a reliable reminder app that will alert you when it’s time. Schedule an alert and set it for reoccurring every day, and you will be well on your way to creating a consistent habit of checking emails regularly.
#2 – OHIO (Only Handle It Once)
Have you ever flagged or bookmarked an email after reading it – just so that you can go back and read it again with the intention to reply or take action later?
If you do this, realize that this actually slows down your productivity because there is more brain energy and actual time involved with thinking about doing a task rather than the act of simply doing it and getting it done.
Your mind will always be thinking about the things that you need to complete that are into the future and this doesn’t make for a very efficient workflow to stay present and do a good job with the task you have currently at hand.
By taking the OHIO approach you will not only cut down significantly on wasting precious brain power thinking about doing the task of checking, rechecking and responding to emails, but it will also relieve you from the stress due to feeling the needing to get back to your senders in a timely manner. It also tells them that you are organized and are a quick decision-maker. Which takes me to the next point…
#3 – Decide quickly and shorten your time spent in your inbox by asking 2 simple questions
Not sure about what to do with the information you’ve just received?
Sometimes there are emails that offer you a service or a product, and it may or may not be useful given your situation. Maybe it is a valuable product or idea that can help grow your business or grow you personally, and you are on the fence if whether or not to buy. And you don’t want to necessarily delete the email yet in case you think it might be useful. So then you become indecisive and spend more time on the situation than you had hoped. Ah, the dilemma of indecision.
To shorten your time spent on what action to take with a piece of email that you’re not sure about, ask yourself the following two questions to narrow down your decision:
Will this information or product make a huge improvement and help move my life and career forward?
Keyword here is ‘huge’ because if you think it’s something good to have and you are leaning more on the thought that it will only make a small or minimal impact, then most likely it is probably not worth the investment.
Could this information/product be valuable for someone else in my circle of contacts or clients?
Perhaps you feel this is a great product and want to share? Great! Then pass it onto others. Sharing is caring.
Otherwise If the answer is no to either of these questions, then delete the email and move on. There is no sense in bogging down your email account with old emails that are only going to make a slight difference in your life. You want to quickly decide if the information will make a huge improvement or not, and reduce the amount of time spent on “thinking about it.”
If the answer is yes, then OHIO it (only handle it once) and immediately to get it off your plate.
If the piece of information is not for you, but you know a contact who might benefit, then forward it to the person and immediately delete the original email.
If you want to take advantage of a special offer for example, then sign-up, enroll, or purchase the product and move onto the next email quickly.
If it is valuable information that is helpful in your business or life and you would like to implement them, create the strategy and action plan to follow through in that moment. Mark a date on your calendar on when you will accomplish that task.
Because you really don’t need to add another item on your checklist of to-do’s, do you?
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