Email is meant to be a less interruptive form of communication than making a phone call or scheduling a face-to-face meeting. But as a small business owner you probably spend a lot of the day multitasking and constantly on the go, so checking email can easily drain precious time.
Contrary to popular belief, constantly checking your inbox is not the most efficient practice. It becomes a distraction and takes your focus off of more important items, such as a potential sale. The key is figuring out how to manage all those emails effectively to not lose time, or any important communications. Begin by taking these five steps to a cleaner, more controlled inbox:
1. Set Your Priorities
Time is of the essence, so pick and choose your battles. You have a window film business to run, which requires you to wear many hats with very little support. To keep your head from spinning, it’s critical that you plan and prioritize your day. Entrepreneur.com suggests pretending you have half the time you actually have. Every morning before work, decide what you will tackle first. If you haven’t closed a sale that has been in the works for over a week, this should take precedent over your unread emails.
2. Schedule Appointments to Check In
The same way you set up an important client meeting on your calendar, you should set aside time to check email. Block out an hour on your calendar two or three times each day. If your email calendar service allows, turn your status to “busy” during this time. You may not get through your entire inbox in 60 minutes, but the goal should be quality versus quantity.
3. Respond Right Away
Speaking of quality, you’ll need to devote your full attention to an email in order to craft the best response. To make sure you’re focused, go through unread messages one at a time. When you open each email, determine if you can delete it, if you should save it or if it requires a response. Regardless, take action before moving on to the next unread email.
If your attention needs to be elsewhere for several hours, such as onsite at a job, you could utilize your email system’s away message. This will create an automatic response, letting people know you can’t offer a full response right now, but you will get back to them (preferably at your pre-scheduled time; see #2). Same rule applies if you’re on vacation. Set an automatic message, which states you’ll be responding to emails as soon as you return.
4. Use Folders and Flags
Most email providers offer folders, labels and some way to mark your messages. Maybe you star or flag emails that you need to follow-up on. In addition to flagging, make sure every single email has a label and/or goes in a relevant folder. This will not only keep your inbox tidy, it will help you quickly find an email should you have to refer back to it at a later time.
5. Remove the Noise
Does it seem as if half your inbox is just junk? That’s because it is. According to Baydin, an email management service provider, an average email user deletes 71 of the 147 messages they receive daily – that’s 48%. You’re spending about 5 minutes every day, or 24 hours over the course of a year, just sending emails to the trash. De-cluttering your inbox is as simple as clicking “unsubscribe.” This will help reduce the time you spend checking – and ultimately deleting – promotional emails from companies you no longer patron or have any interest in.
With these email-management tips top of mind, you can devote more time and energy to growing your business.