Are you looking for a resource to start and build your business in the smartest most strategic way possible? There iIs your email inbox an absolute disaster? Your inbox doesn’t have to be a drain on your time and energy, remain an absolute mess and be something that stresses you out. I’ll provide three steps to regain control of your inbox clutter with other actionable tips and tricks.
- Learn how to get clear on what the actual problem is with your inbox
- Discover how to determine your goal for your inbox
- Create a plan to manage your inbox, then implement and maintain that plan
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Lemme guess— your inbox is an absolute disaster. It is completely out-of-control.
Sure, you’ve tried staying on top of the clean out, even subscribing to services that promise to end the Promotions and unsubscribe from all the lists your are now on because you just wanted that one freebie that once (that you honestly haven’t downloaded at all much less taken off your digital bookshelf to put to good use).
You are either missing important stuff or the services just aren’t enough.
And now you are avoiding your inbox because it gives you major anxiety.
But I have really good news:
Your inbox doesn’t have to be a drain on your time and energy.
Your inbox doesn’t have to remain an absolute mess.
And your inbox doesn’t have to be something that stresses you out.
Your inbox is sacred space.
Every email that lands in your inbox needs to be there for a reason because for better or worse, you gotta deal with it.
Some emails are delightful, welcome little messages exactly when you need them, while others are overwhelming intrusions that seem to never stop.
I know that it can be overwhelming when your inbox rules the day, so I am answering ALL your email and inbox management questions.
So what is the answer to your inbox issue?
Create an inbox system that is tailored to you.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, it is. But that doesn’t mean just any ol’ system will work.
The total number of emails sent and received per day exceeded 293 billion in 2019 and that number is only growing. And I’m guessing you are getting your fair share of those straight to your inbox.
And while inbox zero sounds like the promised land of decluttered virtual communication, it may not be what you need.
Merlin Mann coined the term Inbox Zero back in 2007 as a solution to handling the distraction of email.
But if you are a small business owner, chances are email isn’t just a distraction— it is a very important part of your business.
And focusing on just having no unread and unprocessed emails at the end of every day is missing the point of email in the first place.
Some have even referred to Inbox Zero as a vanity metric, much like the number of followers on Instagram— it looks great, but without a bit more engagement and strategy, it likely isn’t going to get you to where you want to go.
So, how do you create an inbox system that supports you as the CEO of your life and business?
Well, here are the three simple steps to overhauling your inbox:
1. GET CLEAR ON WHAT THE GOAL IS, AND WHAT ISN’T WORKING.
We can’t solve a problem unless we understand the REAL problem.
So, instead of saying “My inbox overwhelms me,” go a bit deeper.
What about your inbox overwhelms you?
It is the # of promo messages you receive from other businesses?
Is it the number of customer services emails you are fielding?
Is it that you are using one inbox for everything and it has gotten out of hand?
Then start to think about what the dream is.
What is the goal with your inbox?
How do you want it to function?
How should it look?
How do you want to feel?
Ideally, how does checking email fit into your life and business?
2. CREATE A PLAN.
Now that you know what your starting point is and where you want to end up, it’s time to create the plan to get from start to dream.
Having a plan to follow helps set you up for ultimate success and keeps you from just trying things willy-nilly (which is what got you here in the first place).
If your goal is to respond timely to any and all customer service inquiries, define what timely means to you. Is it a response within 2 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours?
You get to decide and set the standard for YOU.
Then create a system where you are checking and responding to ONLY customer service emails in that timeframe.
You could set an alarm to remind you to check email, set up filters and folders to support you, hire a VA to manage your inbox for you, spend 2-3 hours decluttering your inbox and then a maintenance schedule of twice a month to keep it cleaned up.
Don’t keep your inbox open or notifications to pop up on your phone. Even the entrepreneurs with incredible amounts of will-power and determination find it hard to say no to checking what that little 1 or 2 or 13 is indicating is waiting in the inbox.
There is no one-size-fits-all email inbox plan.
You get to decide what will work for you.
Alright, you know the problem, what the dream is, and how you are going to get there.
Time to take action.
3. IMPLEMENT AND MAINTAIN.
You get to start implementing your big plan and if you find that something isn’t working for you, change it.
You have the power and the responsibility as the CEO of your business and the leading lady of your life to change your approach at any time.
You have big dreams and major goals to hit and you aren’t going to let a little thing like your unruly inbox hold you back.
Remember, entrepreneurship is a series of mini-experiments. It is an opportunity for you to test out methods and strategies, figure out what works and doesn’t, and get even better and more effective as you go.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room — an elephant-sized amount of uncategorized or unread emails. When I did an ask-me-anything on this exact topic last year, I had someone who had 100,000 emails to sort through.
She was clearly overwhelmed by the sheer volume and how to get to a place where that number wasn’t overwhelming. Maybe you have more than 100,000 or maybe you only have 1000 but still have this same issue. How do I implement this new system on top of such a big, giant mess. Ignoring the existing emails and just trying your system on the new incoming emails is a bandaid, like putting lipstick on it. Until you can actually get to the bottom of exactly what caused this issue in the first place, moving forward is going to be an exercise in futility.
So you need to deal with the mess. Add that into your plan.
Here is a good way to do some quick clean out, especially with marketing type emails. Look at the front page of your email inbox, just those first 50 emails. What in that list can you not only delete immediately but that you feel confident that anything from that sender that may be buried somewhere in that inbox is also something you can get rid of AND that you don’t want to hear from any more?
- Click on that email. Scroll to the bottom and hit the unsubscribe button. This will ensure you don’t receive future correspondence from them.
- Then, filter all messages by the sender’s name or email address. You should then have a list of every email in your inbox from that sender.
- Click the box at the top to select all the messages in that filtered list.
- Click delete.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly your number shrinks doing this. And it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or overwhelming. Maybe you do 10 emails/senders a day. But if you have 100 emails from each of those senders (you probably have more), you are eliminating 1000 emails a day in less than 20 minutes and because you are unsubscribing, your inbox number isn’t growing at the same rate it had been.
If the incredible amount of emails is from actual people meant for you and not marketing emails, you can always hire an assistant whose role is to manage the inbox. Or you can create a new email address and only give it out to the few people who actually need it. Then set an autoresponder to the old email address that you are no longer actively using that email and alternative ways to get the information they need. (options may include a link to FAQs, submitting a form on your website, sending a DM, write an actual letter, or alternative email addresses to those who can help with their inquiry.
Want more kickass tips for how to overhaul your life and make your business work for you, rather than the other way around?
I always like to end each episode with an action step that you can take right now to help you move forward and begin to implement immediately. Here is your action step for this episode: Define the problem and ultimately what you’d love for your inbox to do for you. Then write out your plan and start testing it out.