For many small businesses owners, few moments of the day create the kind of creeping dread as when checking their email. The thought of tackling a mountain of unread email correspondence can cause feelings of frustration and exhaustion, as valuable time quickly evaporates while sorting through what needs a reply and what can be deleted.
Email was once a revolutionary timesaver for businesses. How has it mutated into such an unruly monstrosity that threatens to destroy our productivity? Fortunately, you can un-Frankenstein your inbox by making just a few simple changes to the way you deal with email.
Here are a few ways of overcoming poor email habits that help to terrorize your inbox.
As a small business owner, you need to stay on top of the details, both big and small. However, this can lead you to subscribe to a number of unneeded email notifications, newsletters, and threads that will quickly clog your inbox. You’ll spend far more time sifting through the noise searching for those emails that truly matter than actually making any progress taking care of what needs to be done.
Instead of trying to keep tabs on everything, make an effort to clean up your inbox.
Hold onto those emails that actually do matter to your business and that you engage with and open regularly. Everything else needs to go. You can unsubscribe from newsletter in just one click using apps like Unroll.me and stop unwanted notifications. Suddenly your inbox will start to feel less chaotic and so will you.
A lot of things can take place in your inbox that range from scheduling a meeting to deciding on complex plans and strategies. However, the question should become, is email really the best place for these things? Occasionally a better way exists that allows you to handle business without cluttering your inbox.
Using apps like Google Chat, Slack, and Skype for internal conversations with colleagues can help reduce the clutter of frequent email exchanges. Outlook and Gmail both feature calendar apps that allow you to schedule meetings, while Dropbox and Google Drive provide you with document storage options. Finally, for things that really require your immediate attention, just picking up the phone is often your best solution.
Spending most of your day working through emails is a necessity if your job is to specifically answer emails. However, for the rest of us, answering emails should take as little time as possible. Checking your inbox every few minutes and writing the same generic reply over and over isn’t the best use of your time.
To reduce the time spent perusing your inbox, try setting aside specific times throughout the day for checking your email. Unless your field of business requires immediate replies, consider setting a time in the morning, afternoon, and just before close of business to check and answer any emails.
Make sure to turn off all notifications outside of those dedicated email times so that no siren can lure you back to your inbox before the set time.
Also check to make sure you’re using any available tools that your email platform offers, such as keyboard shortcuts and automatic filters, that can save you a few precious minutes a day. If you find yourself sending the same types of emails over and over, consider creating an email template you can plug into most standard email responses so you can save a lot of time and unnecessary keystrokes.
Being clear and concise is just as essential to writing quality emails as using proper grammar and correct spelling. Getting long-winded in your email writing runs the risk of making it harder for the recipient to understand what exactly you’re asking of them. The whole point of sending an email becomes moot if you never receive a needed response from a recipient who didn’t understand what you were asking.
Keep your message brief and pay special attention to formatting.
Keep in mind that whoever you’re writing to is probably just as busy as you are, so the shorter the email the more likely you’re to receive a quick response.
Finally, make sure to clearly state what your email is in reference to in the subject line or else you run the risk of having your email marked as spam or ignored until later.
Failing to Archive or Delete
It’s tempting to use your inbox as storage for important email chains and correspondences. However, you can reduce much of the clutter that builds up in your inbox by deleting emails you’ve read and archiving those that you may need at a later date.
If you’re afraid of deleting something important, remember that most email platforms allow users to search and restore their deleted emails for several weeks or months following their initial deletion.