You know that feeling you get when your inbox is empty? You feel accomplished and caught up. You feel like you have everything under control and you're on top of the world, right? Well what if you could implement a few simple strategies to keep your inbox at zero more often? About a year ago, I started getting a lot more emails as my business grew. But I implemented some organization techniques that continues to help me keep my inbox empty today.
Adding folders to your email program will make it easier to organize your emails. Start by determining the type of emails that you get and how you'd like to categorize them. For instance, do you need a place to hold all of your client emails, inquiries, leads, customer emails, or project details? Think about your workflow and how it will work best for you. Then, you can decide what folders you need in order to keep all similar emails in one place. This also makes it easier to find an old email when you need to go back and reference it again. Be sure to keep in mind how many emails you think you'll be adding to each folder too. You don't want the folder to end up overloaded and have to spend more time digging and searching for what you need later on.
Some folders that may also help keep you organized and efficient are action items, follow ups, and pending items. These help you to know what needs attention, what you are waiting on, and what you need to follow up with. I utilize these folders as part of my workflow with clients during ongoing email communication for projects and it works great for keeping track of things. It also helps to thin out your inbox so that things don't get lost in the shuffle. You can attack one set of to-dos at a time.
manage your inbox
Keeping your inbox under control isn't a one time deal. You have to consistently manage it. The key is creating a system for yourself so that you can keep it organized without even thinking. Once you're done with an email chain, archive it. There is no need for it to sit in your inbox collecting digital dust and taking up space. This is where the folders come in to play. Put the email in a folder if you will need to reference it later, or delete it if it's something you won't need again. Set aside some time each week or month to clean out your inbox. Move emails to the right folders, delete old or unnecessary emails, andanswering anything left hanging.
Simplify your subscriptions
This is basic logic, but less emails coming in means less clutter to sift through. Don't get me wrong, subscribing to your favorite blogs and businesses can be extremely valuable (you know, like this one), but they can also crowd your inbox easily. Utilize unroll.me to unsubscribe from a bunch of email lists at once and be more intentional about what you subscribe to so that you are only receiving emails that add value or joy to your life.
Answer emails in batches
I know many people that have implemented this technique and swear by it. The idea is to only check your email at certain times throughout the day and close it during the other times so that you are not distracted by it. Sadly, we can spend a crazy amount of time reading and responding to emails, and this method helps to batch that into two or three times per day. Instead of always answering an email as soon as it comes in your inbox, you can send a group of emails at a time and get more done. While I am a huge fan of grouping together tasks like this, I have yet to master this method for my inbox. I am attempting to try this method more, and think it will really help to be more productive and less busy.
Everyone has their own way of organizing and their own systems for doing things. This is just one way to do it and one that I thought might help you if you haven't found what works for you yet. Give some of these tricks a try and let me know how it goes for you!