Taming the Email Monster
For the past few weeks I have been massively busy with client work – which is an excellent thing for a Virtual Assistant to be able to say. Far better to be busy and productive than bored and tempted to watch day-time TV in my PJ’s. As I’m busy I have to make sure that I use many tried and trusted ways to make sure my business continues to run effectively, one of those key things is to make sure my email doesn’t turn into an email monster.
The manic busy time is going to continue for at least the next 12 weeks as I am contracted to offering full-time support to one of my clients businesses during the school summer holidays, while still continuing to support my other retained clients at the same time.
To enable me to do this, and to allow for a normal level of R&R after working hours and at the weekends, I have had to really call upon my organisational skills to allow me to carry on giving each of my clients 100% guaranteed service satisfaction.
When I speak to other small business owners they tell me that one of their main time zappers is email! Email is a great time saver, but it can also transform into an email monster when left unattended for any length of time.
Last week alone, I received approximately 600 emails ~ I swear they were multiplying daily.
It posed the question…
How much time do we spend reading and responding to – or simply deleting – emails?
How much unread email currently clutters your inbox?
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, the answer (in both cases) is far too much!
In fact, if you were brave enough to actually time yourself, you’d very likely find you spend two or even three hours each and every day just dealing with email.
Yikes! No wonder you sometimes feel like you don’t get anything done. So, if this is true for you it’s time to build a solid email system to help you tame that email monster for good.
First step, if you have a massive backlog and don’t want to be ruthless and delete the lot you have to set-up a folder, call it ‘Old Email’ and copy the lot to it: after weeding out the email from customers/clients you should have dealt with today. Everything else can be dealt with at a later time. Out of sight is definitely out of mind.
Now you can start with a clean slate, a fresh new email inbox which you can organise from the word go.
Just follow my Virtual Assistant Tips and you’ll tame that email monster for good:
Auto-File Your “To Read” Emails
We all do it. We open an email, realise it’s a newsletter we love, an important announcement, or information about an upcoming event, and we close it with a well-intentioned, “I’ll read that later.” The trouble is, when later comes, we either can’t find the email, or worse still don’t even remember that we wanted to read it.
Now, what if you had a folder on your computer where all your “to be read” emails waited just for you to come by and discover them again? How empty would your inbox be then? Through the power of filters and folders, just about any email client can take care of this task for you.
Simply set up a folder called “To Read” or something else equally as clever, then create an email rule or filter (as Gmail calls them) to deliver certain messages to that folder when they come in. Make a rule for your favourite on-line newsletter, email from your local chamber of commerce, or even your Children.
But here’s the trick to it: You then have to actually schedule time to go and read these emails. Don’t let them just pile up in there, because all that does is move the problem from your inbox to your “to read” folder. Make time to read them, then respond, file, or trash accordingly.
Turn off Notifications
Are you easily distracted by email? If so, you’re not alone. That little red number declaring the number of unread emails, or the pretty little chime that announces the arrival of a new message is an invitation to click over and see what’s new. The I REALLY want to take a look moment!
Turn it off. In fact, turn off the automatic checking for email if you can. That way you can purposefully decide when to go read your email, rather than being notified of a new message every 5 minutes or so.
Chances are you’re on multiple mailing lists – and most of them you probably never read.
Click the un-subscribe button. Go on be ruthless, it’s not personal, it’s business. You can always sign up again if you miss the content, but for now, eliminating those emails from your inbox will save you a lot of time and trouble.
The ‘A’ List
I have a specific email address which is used solely by my clients. I don’t use it for newsletters, marketing or on my social media accounts. Those who have it are the elite, and I know that if anything arrives into this sub email account it’s work related and needs to be dealt with asap.
Email reply rules
One of my pet peeves is the one word response email (Yes or No) these are the email chains which take a lot of back and forward replies and this means time. Better to have one longer email which covers everything than to have to write & send half a dozen. So make sure your response is clear, concise and covers everything.
Getting a handle on email is one of the toughest things for busy small business owners, but with a little planning and some self-discipline, you can become an email ninja, and start using email as the powerful tool it is, rather than letting it run your business life and turning into an email monster.