Is your inbox overflowing?
If you’re anything like me, I bet there are a handful of emails lingering that you’ve been meaning to reply to. And I’m also willing to bet you check your email multiple times a day.
While I wish I could tell you I’m one of those disciplined people who only check email at certain times of the day, if I did, I’d definitely be lying. That’s just not me.
But here’s my big confession: I love email! (No really, I love it.)
While I know email is often a list of other people’s requests for your time, energy and knowledge, I see each new email in my inbox as an opportunity.
My inbox is full of possibility — new client inquiries, speaking invitations, blog comments, newsletter replies, useful resources from other bloggers and business owners. Most times when I check my email, I’m excited to see what’s inside.
A few weeks ago, the team over at The Gmail Genius reached out to me (Via email! Lol. Pun intended!) to ask if I’d be willing to share how I email. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to explain why I love email + the tools and processes I use to make managing my inbox more manageable.
How I email
Because I run my own communications consulting business, I have multiple email accounts: my personal email, business email, university email for my role as an adjunct instructor and two client email accounts.
That’s five inboxes, total. (Yes, sometimes it feels like my head is spinning.)
I check my email multiple times a day, often toggling between the five accounts. It can get a little overwhelming, but I enjoy switching between multiple “roles” throughout my work day. It keeps things interesting!
Here’s my process: I always keep my personal and business email account open on my laptop (one on a Safari tab and the other on Chrome), and then check the three other accounts throughout the day as needed when I’m working on something for that particular client or role.
I also use the Gmail app on my phone, which allows me to easily switch between accounts. I only use the iPhone email app for my personal email, which to be honest, is probably my least important email account.
5 tips for managing your inbox
Want to love checking email again? Here are my five top tips staying sane while managing a bustling inbox.
1. Let each inbox serve a purpose
Whether you realize it or not, you probably have multiple email accounts too. At the very minimum, I’m assuming you have around two — a personal email and a work email. It can get confusing, so aim to let each inbox serve a purpose.
Each of my inboxes has a very specific purpose, and I check them at times that make sense in my work day.
For example, while I have my personal email account open all day, I rarely need to check it during the work day because nothing important work-wise comes through to that inbox.
And while I have dedicated email accounts for two different clients, I only need to be in those inboxes when I’m working on that particular account.
Five inboxes sounds like a lot, but I primarily spend my days in just two or three of the accounts at any given time. And that’s because I’ve compartmentalized my email life, making it easy for me to understand what I should be doing in each inbox.
2. Set boundaries around checking email
If you’re guilty of checking email too often as I am, it may be time to set some boundaries.
Even for a self-proclaimed email lover like me, it can definitely overwhelm and take me away from important tasks if I’m not careful.
I used to be guilty of immediately checking email as soon as I woke up, but I’ve done a good job lately of not checking email in bed — I realize that nothing good comes from starting my day in that manner. I also am pretty good about not checking email in the evenings — as a business owner, it can be tempting to work around the clock, but I really do try to disconnect for a few hours each night to give my brain some space. I’m still working on setting boundaries around not checking email while in the middle of an important work task.
Are there times of day that you can avoid your inbox? Can you vow to start your day without opening your email in bed? See what works for your schedule and your job, but set some sort of boundary for yourself.
3. Make Gmail’s filter + skip the inbox your new best friend
I’m a huge fan of Gmail’s filter email + skip the inbox function.
Here’s an example. I love email newsletters. I subscribe to a bunch, and enjoy the updates, but I realized that my inbox was full of emails that weren’t critical to my life, career or business at that very moment. Those emails were making it difficult to see what actually needed replying to and what could wait.
I started filtering these emails to a certain folder and have them skip the inbox completely (easily done through Gmail!). All newsletters go to my “E-Newsletter” folder, which I check when I choose to dedicate time to browsing my favorite newsletters.
Pro tip: I also use this strategy for ALL shopping/promotional emails, meaning I literally never see a shopping email unless I dip into my shopping folder. Added bonus? I save money by not spending based on the temptations waiting for me in my inbox (I see you there, Old Navy!) and only check the folder when I’m planning to shop and am looking for a coupon or deal.
4. Create a canned response for everything
Find yourself writing a variation of the same email over and over again?
Maybe it’s a template email you use to respond to a brand who has expressed interest in working with you, or the copy you use when a prospective client reaches out. Maybe it’s a common question you get asked at work or an email you send every time you need to schedule a meeting.
Instead of typing out a variation of the same response over and over again, you need Canned Responses.
Canned Responses, a feature from Google Labs, allows you to save that template in your email and click one button to have the content populate when you’re ready to reply.
I especially use canned responses for my content management clients to respond quickly to emails from freelance writers sending pitches for the blogs I run + I use it for when prospective clients reach out to JL&Co to gather some basic information.
5. Let email benefit you (and your business)
Did you ever stop to think about the fact that each email you send is a free and wonderful marketing tool?
Here are two of my favorite ways to leverage email as a personal branding opportunity.
Use your email signature to the fullest. I use my email signature as an opportunity to direct traffic to my website, blog and social channels. That sounds like a lot of links (and it is), but it’s designed in a way that makes it easy to find the link you might be most interested in. You can also change your email signature each time you have something new to promote. Think of it as something that’s ever-changing, rather than a static email signature.
Your out of office autoresponder is an amazing tool for personal branding. Instead of the standard, “I will be out of the office until X date”, don’t be afraid to get a little more creative and personal. Here’s an example from when I recently visited the UK for the Philadelphia Eagles game (You can see my email signature there, too!)
You’ll notice I sprinkle in a little bit of personality by sharing where I’m going (I realize this won’t always be appropriate) and a bit about my favorite team. I also use my out of office message as an opportunity to drive traffic back to my website — in this case, two recent blog posts. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about my out of office messages!
Make email work for you
If you lament about your overflowing inbox or the email from December you haven’t gotten around to (I’m guilty myself!) it’s time to change your attitude and processes around email.
By spending more time in your inbox this week making a few key changes, you’ll save yourself time in your inbox in the long run + gain back more sanity.
Oh! And with that, I’d love for you to send me an email. I promise to reply! Because like I said, I really do love email.
How do you email? Have any tips or tricks you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments below!
Photo via Unsplash