One of the women in my accountability group recently posed a question to our group of four: how do you deal with your emails? How do you manage your inbox? The three of us to whom this question was directed had little to say except to agree that this was a question we struggled with ourselves.
This encouraged me to explore the subject further. Indeed I struggle with an email inbox that feels “under control” when it “only” has 937 emails in it. I struggle being distracted by emails during important tasks. I struggle with checking email on my phone in the middle of the night, and first thing in the morning (which everyone says not to do).
My current “email management” are:
- Flags: I flag emails that are time sensitive or very important, and sort by flag at the end of every day to make sure I responded to everything that I absolutely had to address.
- Folders: Once an email has been handled, I either delete it, or file it. The emails in my inbox are only emails that need to be dealt with. Emails that have been handled but need to be filed for potential reference purposes go in one of 20 folders I have (ranging from a folder for each employee, a folder called “customers,” and one folder per quarter for random things as I usually remember the timing of an email when searching)
- Email catchup hours: I try twice a week to spend about 2-3 hours on my emails, sorting my inbox alphabetically so that I am dealing with one person’s emails all at once. I like to do this in the evenings or on the weekends so that I can actually go through my inbox without having it be constantly flooded by new emails.
- Unsubscribe: I try to unsubscribe to those emails I delete without reading. It takes time and feels like a never-ending task but it still is worth it to me.
Yet these strategies are not enough – so I turned to some of my family and friends and asked for their pearls of wisdom.
Jenn Mapp Bressan, Cibu Brand Leader
I use one gmail account to manage all of my emails. It looks like I separate my personal and my business email, but it’s all the same inbox. The desktop version is great because it automatically filters priority / social / promotional so I can manage workload without distractions from J. Crew and other favorite brands.
Heidi Kallett, CEO, The Dandelion Patch
I try to “touch an email once.” Meaning I answer it, I delete it, I forward it, or I file it upon reading it. If it’s something that needs work or attention, I put it on my written to-do list for the day/week. And save for later in a file.
Garrison Neill, Assistant Director of Operations, Paris Parker Salons
I love the VIP feature on my iPhone! It’s set to notify me as soon as one of my VIPs emails me. I also allows me to only view VIP emails so I can prioritize my responses.
Charles Perer, Founder, Intermix Capital
Keep your inbox like your desk – clear and organized. Great executives have clean desks that present good organization and structure, there is no reason the email inbox should not follow.
Rachel Polla, PR Manager, Union Bancaire Privee
To me, emails are key to communicate with colleagues that are physically hard to reach – for example their offices are located in another city. If I see an email chain that gets out of hand between people in our immediate office, I call a meeting or go speak with the key person instead of “replying all.” A conversation can be so much quicker and more effective than a million emails!