Simple Guide to Reclaiming Your Inbox
Email Management Strategies from a Virtual Assistant
It’s Monday morning. As you sit down at your computer, that all too familiar sinking sensation in your stomach creeps in…the dreadful inbox!
Small business owners receive at least 50 emails every day. Many have multiple inboxes. Reading, responding and managing all this email takes a long time. Your important work is taking a back seat to this daily chore. As a result, you’re notoriously behind on projects. Working late, just to catch up.
No matter how much time we spend trying to organize our inbox — email takes over our lives. Finding the right way to manage all this online correspondence is critical for your day-to-day business operations.
The “right way” to manage email depends a lot on your own personal style. We will outline some of the most popular email management strategies, so you can reclaim your inbox (and sanity.)
Last In First Out (LIFO)
LIFO is the most common way people use their inbox, reading through email top-down. Starting with the most recent email received is the most convenient and intuitive. However, there are two pitfalls to this strategy.
- The first is that you’ll likely end up with inconsistent responsiveness. On days that you have a lot of time to spend on email, you’ll reply to contacts lightning-fast. On days that you’re busy and in meetings, you’ll have messages pile up and get buried under newer emails.
- The second risk is that you may miss out on good opportunities because you didn’t follow up in time. If you choose to use this strategy but want to mitigate these risks, I would recommend blocking an hour or two once a week during which you switch to the reverse chronological approach (conveniently outlined below). This way, you’ll clear out anything old that might be important.
Reverse chronological is the opposite of LIFO. People deal with the oldest emails first. If you use Gmail, it is easy to switch the sorting of your inbox. Simply click the email counter in the top right corner.
This email organization strategy makes you deal with the emails you’ve been putting off, first. Perfect for all the chronic procrastinators out there. However, it may be risky to take a reverse chronological approach if your work regularly receives urgent emails that really do need to be answered right away.
Inbox Zero, a term coined by Merlin Mann, is an email strategy where the goal is to always keep your inbox 100% empty. The big benefit to this: you don’t waste time re-reading an email for the third time before acting. Perfect email strategy for Type-A list-makers who like to have complete control on their inboxes.
Quick tip: Couple Inbox Zero with Boomerang for Gmail, an app that lets you file messages out of your inbox until the date and time of your choosing. So, you can decide between answering and delaying for later, if necessary.
QBR has managed a lot of inboxes and we have used every email organization style. Take it from us, a successful strategy is all about matching your personal style with habits you’d like to encourage (or discourage). You may find that mixing and matching work best for you. The goal is to not allow your inbox to take over your life. And, that your clients and quality prospects are getting an answer in a timely manner.
Need help getting started? We can free you from the time-consuming tasks so you can focus on what matters most, growing your business. Contact Quick Business Resolutions, we are here to help!