Do you sometimes wonder how you’ll ever get through all of the communications that need sending? While Inbox Zero may not necessarily be a realistic goal for busy business owners, Inbox Organised certainly is! Here’s a rundown of what we do to declutter our inbox, keep on top of emails and come out the other side feeling much more organised.
1. Separate business and personal email accounts. Inboxes are crazy enough without having to sift through personal messages too! If business communications are starting to dominate a personal address, it may be time to redirect your work emails or start fresh with a new private account. Just be sure not to lose out on any referrals from past clients!
2. Commit to a response time for enquiries. Because these are some of the most important emails you’ll receive! Generally a response time of no longer than 24-48 hours is best as you want to get back to potential clients while they’re still thinking about you and avoid a backlog. This way, you’re not only kicking business goals but inbox goals too.
3. Create folders. As soon as you’ve replied to a communication, file it into the relevant folder – it’s a great way to clear out your inbox without deleting conversations. Some ideas for folders you could set up:
- Current enquiries
- Client communications
- Photo shoots
- Marketing opportunities
- Client testimonials and photos
- Accounts (one for every product or service you’re using for your business – great for storing login information, invoice notifications, payment receipts, etc.)
Note: Don’t feel like you have to file away every message – it’s natural for some to remain in your inbox until the tasks within them are finished, particularly if you’re expecting a quick response.
4. Prioritise your messages. If your inbox is currently in a state of chaos, create high, medium and low priority folders and sift emails into each of them. Once you’re finished, you can start tackling everything in the high priority folder without feeling overwhelmed about the other emails waiting for your attention.
5. Create email filters. Receiving a high volume of emails on a certain topic? A keyword filter can be set up so things like contact form enquiries are filed out of your inbox straight away. Check the folder once a day.
6. Set follow up reminders. If you need to follow up on an email later, add it as a task into your calendar and set a reminder notification. That way you can park the conversation until you receive a response or it’s time for you to touch base.
7. Don’t let important emails disappear onto Page 2. Some say Page 2 of Google is the best place to hide a dead body, and we feel the same way when it comes to emails! Anything that ends up on the second page is often difficult to get back to, because it’s so easy to prioritise only the newest and more visible messages. If critical emails are getting pushed to Page 2, it’s time for an inbox detox!
8. Create canned responses. This is really just a fancy way of saying ’email templates’. If you find yourself writing a particular type of email on a regular basis, that’s your cue to turn it into a message you can copy/paste. This takes the time spent on each email from about 15 minutes to 2 minutes. Now that’s the way to power through the list! The best part is, you only need to come up with the right wording once.
Common emails you may need to send are things like responses to enquiries (one for when they’ve supplied all the details you need, and one for when you need to request further info), client follow-ups, photo shoot invitations, requests for client testimonials and portfolio photos, product orders, etc.
The key is to still sounding like yourself is to build in some room for personalisation – the templated part is for oft-repeated information. You don’t need to have all of the answers at the start, just build up your library of responses as you go. We began with three templates and are now working with a bank of 35!
Tip: It’s also a great idea to standardise the titles of these emails so if you need to find one sent recently, it’s easy to search for.
9. Create a response system for when you’re in the office. Some people like to set a limit on the amount of time they spend each day on emails, and what time of day they tackle them. We’ve seen businesses successfully implement a 9 AM to 11 AM response block, so they can spend their afternoon on the rest of their to-do list. There’s really no one right way, just come up with a system that works for you and stick to it!
10. Create a response system for when you’re on the go. It can be a lot harder to respond to emails while you’re out of the office. Turning off push notifications while you’re on a job (or your lunch break) can be a good way to reduce the stress that comes from knowing you’re receiving a stream of messages that need attention. It tends to be more efficient to work on them in bulk when you’re back at your desktop, but if you do need to respond on the go, save a few of your canned responses in a Notes app to copy/paste for a speedy reply!
We hope this article helps you kick email overwhelm to the curb and tackle that pile of messages with gusto!