Imagine this: your email inbox is absolutely overflowing. You always feel behind on responding. Managing emails isn’t just a task on your to-do list, it feels like a mountain to conquer.
If you’re nodding along while you read that, then you’re like many others in today’s communication heavy environment. After all, the average office worker receives 121 emails a day. Not surprisingly, the mortgage industry is very communication heavy, which means that you may receive many more emails than you know what to do with.
Breaking the Email Cycle
Okay, so you know you have a problem. But the idea of reaching so-called inbox zero isn’t just intimidating, it can feel downright impossible.
To help you improve your skills in managing emails, we’ve curated a list of inbox control tips. Start by applying just one or two of these ideas, and stick to your new email methods. You’ll be surprised at just how quickly the number of emails begin to dwindle.
Here’s a quick run down of what we’ll cover today:
Assign yourself an “email time”
It can be very easy to get distracted from your tasks if your email is constantly pinging you. One of the best ways to boost your productivity is to schedule specific times for emails. This will look very different from person to person and depending on your work preferences.
For example, you could decide to only check your email at the top of every hour. Or perhaps, you dedicate 15 minutes first thing in the morning, 15 minutes right after lunch, and a last 15 just before you leave the office for the day. If you’re truly die hard about focusing, set just one or two times to check your email.
What happens when you don’t check your email immediately?
If you’re worried that shutting down your email for the majority of the day will make you miss important messages, there are options! You could set an auto response, that says something like this:
Hi! Thank you so much for your email. In order to provide exceptional service to my clients, I only check my email at specific times each day. If you don’t receive an email response right away, I am either working with a client or away from my desk. I look forward to responding shortly.
If this is an urgent matter, please give me a call at (555) 555-5555.
If you’re looking for a more high-tech option and use Gmail, Boomerang is a helpful add-on. With Boomerang, you can “pause” your inbox, so that you can work distraction free. Plus, you can customize the inbox pause, so that emails from certain people will always come through. Or, you can schedule specific periods of time when you want your inbox to be paused, and set auto-responses for those times.
Start by deleting
When you open your inbox for the first time for the day, what do you do first? Starting your email time with a set task can help you stay focused. When you login for the day, start by deleting emails that you definitely do not need. Whether that’s promotional emails, newsletters, or even simple communications that do not require a reply from you, this method can take your unread message level from overwhelming to doable in no time.
Unsubscribe from the unnecessary
If you find that you’re instantly deleting emails from the same people or companies every day, consider unsubscribing. After all, it’s almost as quick to unsubscribe from an email list as it is to delete a single email. All promotional emails include an option to unsubscribe from a mailing list at the very bottom of the message. If you’re not sure that you want to completely unsubscribe, many companies allow you to set your email preferences. For instance, you could choose to receive only one update a week, instead of daily emails.
If you receive promotional emails from dozens or even hundreds of mailing lists, trying to unsubscribe from all unwanted lists is time consuming and unrealistic. There are a couple ways to approach this problem.
How to unsubscribe, better
First, set a rule for yourself: every morning, unsubscribe yourself from 1 or 2 mailing lists. Stick to it, and you’ll see a difference in your unread messages very quickly!
If you need a faster and more complete solution, you could use a service such as Unroll.Me. Unroll.Me will automatically unsubscribe you from any or all promotional emails that your email address is signed up for. All you have to do is sign in to your email on Unroll.Me. Then, pick and choose which emails you’d like to continue to see in your inbox, and which you would like Unroll.Me to unsubscribe you from.
Prioritize the most important
Before you dive into the emails that you can’t immediately delete, come up with a strategy. Approaching your emails requires a system, and it’s best to set your priorities before you lose yourself in replying.
Decide what the top three most important emails in your inbox are and reply or deal with those messages first. If the email contains an action item, such as sending a different email, making a phone call, or anything else, add it to your day’s to-do list. It can be tempting to want to address these tasks immediately, but doing so will break your efficiency.
After you tackle these top priority emails, if you still have time to spend in your email inbox, consider how to address the rest of your new messages.
Decide Your Limits
Perhaps, you decide to create a maximum number of unread messages you want to have in your inbox by the time you shut down your email. Whether that’s 5 emails or 50 is up to you, and depends on the volume of messages you’re receiving on any given day.
Whatever limit you set for yourself, having a goal number can help you determine your email stopping point, especially if you don’t stick to specific times of the day to deal with your inbox. For example, imagine you don’t have a limit for how long you could respond to emails on any given day. How do you know when to switch to other tasks? Chances are, you probably don’t need to imagine this scenario. We’ve all pulled our eyes away from our inbox only to realize that we just spent a full hour or two just dealing with managing emails!
Don’t touch an email twice
One of the most important rules that someone can set for managing emails is to stick to the OHIO rule. Only Handling It Once (OHIO) can be applied to many other areas of your life, but for emails, it can be a life-changer.
As difficult as it sounds, replying to an email the first time you open it can save you time and stress. It can be easy to put off an email reply so long that you begin to have anxiety about responding and how late the response is! Opening an email, and replying immediately is one way to solve this.
Just like every other tip on this list, the OHIO rule isn’t for everyone. Perhaps you set specific days of the week to handle emails that will require longer or more thoughtful replies.
When responding, keep it short
Email replies aren’t the time to write your debut novel. Instead, limit filler words, and get straight to the point. It can feel rude to write in this manner at first, but your email contacts will appreciate that you’re saving their time too.
Write a few templates
If you find yourself sending the same or very similar emails on a frequent basis, consider creating a few email templates. These templates can be easily copied and pasted into a new email thread, and then customized as needed for the specific circumstance.
If you are looking for a complete pre-created email template library, Jungo’s marketing emails might be a great fit for you. With pre-formatted and completely customized drip marketing campaigns, holiday and birthday emails, and even loan status updates, you’ll never have to retype a generic email again.
Find a new place for your reading list
It can be easy to let your email inbox fill up with interesting articles or videos that you tell yourself you’ll “get around to eventually.” However, it’s just as easy to forget to circle back to these articles of interest. Then, the emails just continue to stack up in your inbox.
Utilizing an add-on such as the Evernote Web Clipper can solve this issue easily. Evernote Web Clipper is a free plugin which allows you to save any link you’d like. You can “clip” an entire webpage you’d like to revisit when you have more time to read it. You can even “clip” an entire email thread from Gmail.
Tools such as this allow you to declutter your inbox, and still build a reading list of fascinating articles that you can reference when you have a bit more time. Plus, Evernote Web Clipper allows you to annotate and highlight webpages.
Organize your inbox
For some masters of managing emails, a key to overcoming their inbox is to organize it. This will look very different for everyone, so brainstorm what works for you. You could create folders to place emails into, such as Urgent, Moderate Priority, and Low Priority. Or, after you’ve replied to necessary messages, you could sort them into subject folders, such as Promotional, Personal, or Meetings/Events.
If you decide to utilize folders, just be sure to check them periodically. It’s important to know that placing an email into a folder will remove it from your main inbox, so it is easy to forget that they exist. There’s nothing worse than realizing that you put an unread, important email into a folder, and didn’t see it again for weeks or even months.
Managing emails is no one’s favorite tasks, but it’s important to have great email habits. Not only will this boost your productivity, your contacts will appreciate your prompt and helpful replies. Don’t let your overflowing inbox rule your day—take control of it with these easy to implement steps. And don’t worry if not every single one of these tips works for you. After all, it’s your email inbox!