Wrangling your inbox into submission – it’s not quite as difficult as herding cats!

| October 6, 2015

Wrangling your inbox into submission – it’s not quite as difficult as herding cats!

Have you ever fired up your computer to start your work day and thought, you know, I remember seeing an email the other day – I really liked the way it was written, so I’m going to model one of my own marketing emails on it and then, you open up your inbox to find the email and your inbox is full to the brim and you have no hope of finding the one you want? And, ahem, there are thousands of emails in your inbox. Well that used to be me! But there is a way to quickly and easily keep your inbox under control.

It’s all in the tools

Now there are a couple of ways you can tackle this. For solopreneurs the most convenient way is to set yourself up some folders in your inbox – if you’re using Gmail they’re called Labels – and then you can set up some rules for different types of emails that come in. So maybe you have a folder called ‘newsletters’ that any emails from someone that you’ve opted in to receive their newsletter, the email goes straight into your newsletters folder. So it’s not urgent right? You don’t need to be spending time on it straight away, so get it out of your inbox right from the get-go. You can set this up with a rule (in Gmail it’s a filter) so any emails from a certain email address or with a certain subject line skip your inbox altogether and go straight to their designated folder. And you can see at a glance how many unread emails are sitting in that folder, so you won’t lose them and can still keep track.
If you have a small team, or even just a virtual assistant who lends a hand, then you need a way to manage not only your emails but all of your information. There are a few tools for this. One is Google Docs, now called Google Drive. The great thing about Google Docs is that you don’t need to have any software installed to use it – so it’s not dependent on you and your team all having Microsoft Word installed – it uses the same Google platform, and you can create documents and spreadsheets of all sorts.

So what you want to do in Google Docs is start a document – call it something like ‘marketing emails’ or whatever works for you – something that you’re going to be able to search for and find later on. And then you can copy and paste the email straight into the document – with instructions to your VA or team member on what you want done. So maybe it’s for your swipe file and you just want to save it for use later – you leave a message telling them that. Or maybe you want them to write an email using the same format.

I also like to use an online file storage tool called Dropbox, and this is like a virtual drive, and I have my folders all set up like I would in Windows Explorer on my PC. And then you can choose who has access to what folder and share it with them. I often have a client folder where I need to share video files with my clients, so I give them access to their own folder. But then I have a passwords folder that only I have access to. And the great thing with Google Docs and Dropbox is that you can access them from any computer, anytime, anywhere in the world.

Prioritise priorities

Getting back to our emails  – assess the urgency of an email. Can you respond to it within two minutes? If yes, then do it straight away. Get it done and out of the way, then it’s dealt with and finished and you don’t need to think about it again (which is what we all love, right?). If it’s going to take longer than two minutes, then can you delegate it? So I was talking earlier about delegating to your team or VA and one thing you really want to remember when delegating is to give clear direction. Give as much information as you can, especially if your team is working virtually – it’s so easy to make assumptions and things get missed. Set timeframes and deadlines – this applies if you’re a solopreneur as well – be disciplined with yourself.

And lastly, my number one tip for getting stuff done and not getting sucked into the whirlpool of your inbox is to only check your emails a few times a day – don’t have your inbox open all the time, with alerts popping up left, right and centre every time a new email arrives. It is so distracting. Because what do you do? You stop what you’re working on and go check out the new email that’s arrived!

So by setting up some folders and rules (Lables and filters), responding quickly when you can, delegating when you can, and not having your email account constantly open – you’ll find you’re getting more done in your day, while your inbox is staying nice and organised.