Business + Publicity

Overcoming Inbox Overwhelm

November 11, 2015

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When I first started discovering online entrepreneurs who would share tips and tricks via an email newsletter (often sharing some really big incentive when you initially subscribe), I couldn’t get enough.

Weekly recipes from my favorite cookbook author? Yes, please!

Social media tips from the latest popular marketing guru? Count me in!

Someone who appears to be doing the same type of work I’m doing? Better subscribe!

But instead of quick, helpful tips from people I respect and admire, my inbox was flooded with a whole lotta sales pitches. Add to that emails from any company I made an online purchase from, coupons, social media messages, a personal forward or two…  and welcome to inbox overwhelm.

I couldn’t unsubscribe fast enough.

These days, it takes a lot for me to hit the subscribe button.

And that’s why I don’t take it lightly when someone chooses to subscribe to my newsletter. I work hard to deliver top-notch value to anyone who invites me into their inbox. And despite what the marketing gurus suggest, I don’t stick to a regular schedule of sending emails. If I don’t have something super valuable to share, I don’t send an email. Simple.

Look at your inbox right now. How many unread messages do you have?

If it says anything other than ZERO, then it’s too many.

One of the easiest and most impactful ways I keep my business in order is by intentionally and brutally managing my inbox.

Step 1. Schedule it.

A lot of us start our days looking into our inbox and we never really leave… always checking it and responding to every little request and putting out mini-fires all day.

We lose an average of 40% in our productivity when we try to manage this chaos while constantly going back and forth from our inbox to other work.

That’s time we should be spending on our high ticket items… the work that will make a big impact in our businesses. Here’s a better method:

Schedule blocks of time in you day for the sole purpose of checking and responding to emails.

Maybe it’s at 8 AM, 1 PM and 4PM. Whatever works best for you. Even if you have to keep an eye on any urgent emails that may come in during the day, resist the temptation to open any subject line that doesn’t look like an emergency until your next time block.

If you’re like me and you just have to get some emails out of the way later at night when you have some free time, use the Boomerang app to schedule it to send during normal business hours when you normally send emails. I write about why this is so important, especially if you’re a business owner, here. 

Step 2. Go on a subscription detox! 

Is your inbox flooded with emails from people that you never open? Unsubscribe. Don’t worry for a second that you’re going to miss some priceless piece of content or magical unicorn business tip.

If they haven’t won you over yet with anticipation to open each new email, they’re not gonna. Goodbye!

Use to quickly mass unsubscribe. There’s even a cool option to consolidate all the emails you still want to receive into one daily email.

Have this email sent to a secondary email address though– not your high priority inbox.

Why? Because it’s too tempting to click through to take a quick peek at the Nordstrom sale and before you know it, you’re one hour and $300 invested in an online shopping frenzy.

What about those friends/family that send forwards, jokes and other random emails?

You might not be able to officially unsubscribe from them, but you can still get them out of your main inbox.

Go to your secondary account (the one you are now using for your subscriptions and coupons) and write them  from that address to tell them you have a new email address.

Just make sure you’re doing it from the secondary address you want them to use! Most of the time friends and family write to whatever address gets automatically filled in for them. If you reply with the one you want them to use, it will probably be the one that pops up for them when they start typing your name in the “to” field.

Step 3. Turn off social media forwards/alerts. If you really care to see who sends you a message on Facebook, then just log-in to Facebook and check your folder once in a while. Anyone truly interested in doing business with you is going to go to your website and send an email… you know, like a professional. I’ve never missed out on an amazing opportunity because it went unnoticed in a direct tweet.

Step 4. Archive finished conversations + label/prioritize emails that need a response in the near future. Whether you respond to emails throughout the day or schedule a specific time for emails doesn’t matter. The key is that whenever you do open your inbox, you respond instantly to any email that just needs a quick response. And if it doesn’t need any further action until you get a response back, then do yourself a favor and hit the “send & archive” button!

Any email that needs a response but you aren’t able to provide one right away (you have to dig up some answers, check on a question, etc.), gets a star or priority label so it goes to the top.

This way, my inbox is always at 0 unread messages after I’ve tackled messages for the day and the only read messages hanging out are ones that I’m working on a response back. Make sense? This is hard to show in writing… maybe I’ll Periscope this little lesson. 🙂

(There could be another step inserted here: Outsourcing— if you are at that point where your time is better spent elsewhere than responding to customer service emails or other correspondence that can easily be outsourced… then of course, do it! Generally, if anyone else can be trained to do it, then you should let them.)

Step 5: Maintain and enjoy inbox bliss!

Now you should have fewer emails hitting your inbox with all newsletters, promotions and personal emails going to your secondary account (+ the disappearance of social media alerts altogether).

You have carved out specific times during the day when you can focus on reading and responding to emails, eliminating unproductive multitasking, and you’re efficiently archiving or prioritizing your inbox.

Now, just be ruthless about who you let in to your inbox moving forward!

I’d love to hear how you manage your inbox. Do you have any tips or tricks? Share them in the comments below!

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