Inbox zero. It’s something many of us dream of achieving but in reality hardly ever happens. Emails are so constant, and even spending a day or a few hours away from your email account can easily leave you buried in unopened messages.
When you’re self-employed, taking out the time to go through dozens of emails is a great way to get organized, but it’s unpaid work and as a result, may fall lower on the priority list. So how do you get to inbox zero without losing your sanity and while still setting aside the time and energy to earn money with your business?
Here are a few survival tips to help you clear your inbox faster each day.
Set Aside Chunks of Time During the Day
If you spend all day checking and responding to email, you won’t feel super productive in other areas of your business. Plus, you won’t feel a sense of accomplishment either as the emails will keep piling up again anyway. A better way to manage your inbox is to set aside chunks of time throughout the day to spend checking and responding to email.
Instead of waking up at the crack of dawn to check your messages, choose 3 times during the day where you can check messages – with the last one being right before you end your work day so you can reach inbox zero.
For the first two times that you check messages, go through all the easy emails that you can quickly delete or respond to and save the ‘harder’ ones for the end of the day and star them. During your final email check, go through all the starred emails to end your day.
Also, realize that being very accessible via email could be the reason why you’re getting flooded with messages. Take some time to respond back to emails that aren’t urgent so you don’t end up with too much back and forth.
Create Canned Responses
Sending email responses can be draining when your messages start to pile up. If you realize you’ve been getting the same types of email requests often, create a few ready-made canned responses for a few of them so you can save yourself a ton of time while clearing out your email.
Extend Your Autoresponder
If you’ll be traveling or just feel like you’ve been overwhelmed by email, be sure to turn on an email autoresponder with your away message and feel free to extend it for a day or two. I do this whenever I leave town so I won’t get multiple follow up emails from the same person.
Extending my autoresponder gives me a chance to catch up when I return and not feel obligated to quickly answer everyone’s email.
Unsubscribe When It Makes Sense
If tons of offers and email newsletters are flooding your inbox, unsubscribe from the ones that don’t provide any value to you. Your email address can get on many marketers’ lists for a ton of reasons. I recently realized I was getting sales emails from Walmart and Walgreens and didn’t even understand how, but I still unsubscribed.
When you’re cleaning out your inbox and find yourself just deleting certain messages, open a few and see if there’s a way you can unsubscribe so you won’t get any more emails. You can also schedule a day and time on your calendar to go in and unsubscribe from email lists each month.
Prompt People to Schedule a Short Paid Call With You Instead
Depending on your profession, you may receive lots of inquiry email with people asking questions or for advice on a particular topic. One of the best things you can do to get to inbox zero faster and prevent a ton of emails like this is to keep your responses brief but effective and invite the person to do a 15-minute call with you where they can pick your brain and ask you more questions.
Charge for these short calls since your knowledge and experience is valuable. After a conference, I was following up with someone who told me to email her about some public speaking tips. She responded to my questions but also invited me to set up a paid follow up call with her if I needed more help or insight. I thought this was awesome and I could really expect it.
Time is money and while it’s nice to give advice and answer questions, you don’t want to be flooded with a ton of emails you can’t even sort through as a result.
How often do you reach inbox zero? Do you ever do any of these things to help?
Choncé Maddox is a professional writer who recently left her job in the web design industry to produce killer content and manage her own writing business full time. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs be more productive and create a life they love by doing fulfilling work. On the side, she runs a podcast and blogs about getting out of debt at MyDebtEpiphany.com.