Do you have tons of messages in your inbox? Did you read a message with the intention to respond later, but then the email gets buried? Have you drawn a blank when someone asks you if you received their email? Or maybe you miss important emails because there are just too many!
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have “email overwhelm”. You have too many messages or too many irrelevant messages. You don’t have enough time or energy to go through all your emails to figure out what is important and what’s not. As a result, you choose to ignore the problem or get stressed out by it. It can negatively affect your business productivity.
It’s a common problem among business owners and one where a lot of us need help.
Email Overwhelm…It’s a Real Thing!
Here’s what happens. You start a business and think to yourself, “I want all my emails to come to one place so I can manage it.” or “I don’t want to take the time to remember or check multiple email inboxes.” So you create an email address and things go along smoothly in the beginning. Then, your business starts to grow or shift, and you…
- Sign up for people’s newsletters or free opt-in boxes
- Buy products online and get added to the company’s mailing list
- Start signing up for other people’s affiliate programs
- Sell your own products/services online and have customer service inquiries
Now your inbox is cluttered with a lot of stuff you have to sort through and figure out what to do with. Over the years, I’ve come up with 4 simple solutions to tackle email overwhelm and get control of your email inbox.
4 Simple Solutions for Email Overwhelm
1) Block out Designated Times to Check Email
For many people, email is the first thing they check in the morning and the last thing they check before bed. In addition, email can take out a huge chunk of our day. According to a Harvard Business Review article, professionals check their email 15 times per day.
Try blocking out certain hours of the day to deal with emails. If it’s not within those hours, don’t check your email. Focus on the other tasks you have to do.
Turn off email notifications and do not have a tab open in your browser with your inbox all day long. Some people even suggest deleting your email app from your phone so that you are only checking your email while you are in front of your computer during designated hours.
2) Create Different Email Addresses
One reason why it’s a challenge to sort through your emails is that you cannot tell WHY you are getting those emails! You want to read them all, but without knowing under what context the person is sending it to you, it’s hard to know if it’s something you should read right now.
Try setting up a few different email addresses, and use a different First Name for each. Let’s say your name is Jane Smith, and you have a domain called “janesmithdomain.com” and a branded email address @janesmithdomain.com.
For example, you can set up:
Name: JaneOptin Smith
Email Address: [email protected]
When to Use: When you sign up for a newsletter
Name: JaneCustomer Smith
Email Address: [email protected]
When to Use: When you buy a product/service online
Be sure to have these email addresses forwarded to one email inbox. Then you can tell at a quick glance in the “To” line what type of email it is – newsletter, related to a product/service you purchased, customer support, etc.
3) Utilize Filters, Folders, and Flags
Almost every email platform has a way to filter, sort, and organize your emails.
Several mail clients provide folders for storing emails so that your inbox does not become cluttered. Create several folders for specific emails, such as work-related emails, social media notifications, or emails from friends and family. Your inbox is your main folder. On the other hand, some people prefer to keep everything in their inbox and then do a keyword search on what they’re looking for.
Gmail categorizes email messages using labels. You’ll find each label name in Gmail’s sidebar category list, similar to folders. Gmail labels are similar to post-it notes. The emails in your inbox do not move when you assign labels to them. Because of this, a single message may have multiple labels but appear in only one folder.
Gmail filters act as automation rules for handling incoming emails. For each filter, you can specify what criteria you want Gmail to use and which action you want it to take when a message matches these criteria. The rules save you time by automating the process of sorting emails and organizing your inbox.
Flags can be used to help prioritize emails or find certain emails quickly in the future. Gmail has a variety of star colors. Some people use a different colored star for different things.
4) Don’t Be Afraid to Delete, Opt-Out or Unsubscribe
Don’t be afraid to hit delete after you’ve read something. If you do think something is worth keeping or that you might want to refer to it later, just file it away in the appropriate folder. You could also create a folder called “For Later” or “Reference” for miscellaneous emails you want to keep. This will help your inbox stay clutter-free.
Consider opting out of newsletters or marketing emails that are not adding value to your life or your business. Though it can be time-consuming to go through and unsubscribe, you’ll have much fewer emails to have to manage and organize every day. Also, this is a great task to outsource to a Virtual Assistant.
Email overwhelm is the feeling of being completely overwhelmed by your inbox. The number of unread, unsorted, and unanswered emails keeps increasing until the number is so high that you feel stressed when you open your inbox. This can result in wasted time, decreased productivity, missed opportunities or deadlines, and other business-related problems.
How does your inbox look? Are you drowning in emails? If so, you’re accumulating virtual clutter that could be a roadblock to helping you reach your business goals.
You can tackle email clutter and eliminate the overwhelm! Implement one of my strategies above. Pick the easiest one for you to get started.
One final thought…if you do implement great strategies to manage your inbox, be sure to document them so that you can outsource those tasks and grow your business!
(this article first appeared on this site Nov 13, 2010)