Everyone loves getting more email.
Just kidding – the mention of your email inbox is probably enough to bring you out in a cold sweat. Everyone gets far more email than they can cope with, and as an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’ve got a hundred other better things you could be doing with your time.
The problem with email is it all arrives in one place – your inbox – and staying on top of that becomes a momentous task. The good news is that, with a few tips and a little discipline, you can bring this unwieldy beast under control. Here’s how to get started.
Unsubscribe from any emails you don’t read
This might sound obvious, but many emails come to your inbox every day because you haven’t gotten around to canceling them yet. Take some time right now and go through all of the emails you get regularly. If you don’t read the email, just cancel it – at the bottom of every email from a mailing list is an “unsubscribe” link. Click it – go on, it’ll feel good. Spending 20 seconds on each one of these will save you reading thousands of emails over the course of a year.
Set up filters for common messages
Once you’ve unsubscribed and deleted the emails you don’t need, look through the other emails you get from automated services and mailing lists. Chances are you don’t need to do anything with them right away. If that’s the case, setup rules and filters in your email to move those messages to a different folder (for example, you could have one set up for “newsletters.”) This will get them out of your inbox and allow you to look at them when you have some spare time.
Use separate email addresses for personal and work
If you’re like me, you’ve probably had all of your work and personal email coming to the same email address – that can make things tricky. Create a second, dedicated email for your work-related messages. This will help you look more professional and lets you concentrate all of your related communications in one place.
Use a temporary email address to get past sign-up rules
Sometimes you’ll need to sign up with an email to get hold of information you want (e.g., you can download an ebook or white paper in return for subscribing). If that’s the case, you can use a temporary email address that you only have to use once. Popular services include ThrowAwayMail, EmailonDeck, and Guerrillamail.
Only check your emails three times a day
This is one of the hardest disciplines to learn. Limit the amount of time you spend checking your email, and you won’t be at its beck and call. This way you can also focus on responding to email, sorting other email into folders, and staying on top of your inbox. I recommend checking your email at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Outside of those times, just close down your email app!
Keep subject lines short and succinct
Much of the email you deal with will be in response to emails you’ve sent out. To make them easier to identify, always make sure you keep your subject lines short and concise. Explain in the subject line exactly what you need – this helps both the recipient when they’re responding and lets you understand what you’re getting in the reply.
Devote some time every two weeks to completely clear out your inbox
Despite your best efforts, chances are you’ll still get more messages than you can deal with. That’s why it’s vital to commit a couple hours every two weeks where you do nothing but go through your inbox, clear out old messages and stay on top of things.
As you can see, with some focused effort, you don’t have to let email rule your life. Instead, use some discipline and a good framework to manage your email more efficiently. You’ll get more peace of mind and free time to focus on all the other important stuff you need to do.