How to achieve inbox feng shui
A couple of years ago when I started VA work for a new client, I helped them bring some order to their out-of-control inbox. And when I say out-of-control, I mean she had emails in the thousands. I’d never seen anything like it. There were unanswered messages from important clients nestled in-between daily Waitrose newsletters. How anyone could work that way was just beyond me.
The scary thing for me, though, wasn’t the thought of sorting the mess out - it was how much I actually enjoyed it.
Weird, I know. But that’s an example of why you shouldn’t swim against the tide. If you like working on something, just go with the flow! And if you hate it, find someone else to do it for you.
But whether you need help managing your own inbox or your client’s, here are some tips to streamline the process and to make sure you never find yourself in email hell again.
Identify important senders
Make a note of the most important people that email you/your client and make them a priority. The vast majority of email systems give you the option to set up rules which either flag the important senders or put them to the top of your inbox. Make use of these systems as you’ll be able to immediately see what needs your immediate attention and what can wait.
If you’re in business, you’re going to have clients. And those clients are undoubtedly your priority. Why make them feel less important than they are by leaving their emails unanswered?
As well as rules for prioritising certain emails, you can also set up systems for emails to be directly filed away in to folders you have pre-labelled. For example, if you are signed up to someone’s blog or to a useful newsletter (or three), these can be sent directly to a folder you have called ‘To read’ or ‘For downtime’. Making use of folders in this way straight away starts to de-clog your inbox.
Folders are also a great way for you to file away emails that have already been actioned and you want out of your primary folder. Some emails can just be deleted, but if you want to keep a record of conversations or useful information you can file away all emails in to the relevant folder. For example I have a folder for each client I work with, a website admin folder, an inspirational folder, a happy dog folder......
It’s really easy to sign up to receive newsletters (and even easier to get them without realising you signed up in the first place), but if you don’t need to read them they are a serious inbox clogger. When you’re undertaking your inbox detox take the time to unsubscribe to anything that doesn’t pique your interest.
If you do want to keep receiving all these emails then use one of the handy email rules already mentioned to have them sent directly to a folder labelled ‘Newsletters’. You can then read them at your leisure.
Not everyone has the time or inclination to check their emails multiple times a day. If you want to have a little email freedom but don’t want your senders to feel abandoned, set up an auto-response (or out of office reply). You can manage expectations related to your response time in one simple sentence (‘I’m currently in the middle of the jungle and will get back to you within 24 hours’). Simple and effective.