Email is the bane of my life, so I’ve put together 6 rules to cope with my email inbox, hopefully they'll help you with yours too!
But first a little rant.
There are so many emails these days and it’s not that it’s all crap either, there are some really good writers out there whose stuff I really want to read, but I don’t seem to find the time.
Then there are client based emails that require attention because that’s what I’m here for to support clients!
And then, yes then there is the crap. Maybe it’s things that weren't always crap, but something better has come along and replaced it, or you just have some kind of fatigue with the sender and can’t take it anymore.
For me the thing that most easily fits into this catalogue is petitions. I want to be a ‘good’ person. I want to be involved in current affairs and I want to sign my name against injustices and bad things and people that inhabit this world.
But. There is just so much of it these days and so I find myself deleting dolphins in plight and rape allegations, and irresponsible politicians and gutter press. And I feel so guilty, but I cannot save the world with a full inbox – I need space and time to get out there and so I press delete, guiltily.
So here are my top tips to getting a clear inbox
And by the way I use google, so some of these things may not work in the same way if you don’t, apologies up front!
1 – Set up an auto reply on your email
This is not just something for holidays and time away with the fella – you can use this nifty little feature all year round!
It sends out an automated message whenever someone sends me an email. This way I get to dampen the expectation that I will respond straight away.
And thinking about that – it’s just not Ok for people to expect an instant response. Actually thinking about it, I think it’s the other way around. I think we think we should respond straight away, and most normal sane people think ‘they’ll reply when they get around to it’. But we think, oh shit, what is that ping, I better drop everything and go and read my email and come up with a reasonable response. Shush, but don’t tell everyone – we are stressing ourselves out!
This is what my automated response says:
It's lovely to hear from you, thanks for getting in touch. I collect my emails once a day, so will be in touch either later today or tomorrow if really busy, or the day after that if really, really busy! If it's urgent you can tweet me @debbiedooodah!
There, so we can all feel a little calmer that they have a response and we can get to it in a little bit.
Just as an aside – I wasn’t sure how this auto response would go down – but people have told me they like it and it seems professional and they wish they’d thought of it. Know you have the secret too!
2 – Don’t reply to your email straight away
This is a biggie, and I’ve touched on it a little in the point above. You don’t need to drop everything you are doing and respond straight away. Set special times in the day that you check your email. That way you won’t be checking it every half an hour and it won’t be pulling you away from what you are doing – which is surely more important anyway.
It can wait. People will wait.
3 – Get in the habit of unsubscribing to email you don’t need
In much the same way as Marie Kondo’s The Magic of Tidying Up – work out if this email gives you joy or is useful. If it’s not get rid. These things just wear us down!
Or another way to look at it is, have you read these emails for the past month? If not, it’s like a top you almost like, but not enough to wear – it just doesn’t suit you – so get rid. Not every writer is your favourite – don’t keep their books dusting up your shelves!
Be brutal – you won’t regret it!
A quick way to do this is to search for unsubscribe and all the emails with this in the body of the text will turn up in the search – grab a glass of wine, put some music on and spend 20 minutes clearing out your inbox!
It’s also worth pointing out that there are a few services who offer to do this for you – but in my testing they generally always just add these emails to your bin, rather than unsubscribe. So when I’ve deleted something by mistake it’s almost impossible to find it in my bin, because all those dreaded emails are in there. If you want to check them out unroll.me and getunsubscriber.com offer to do this.
4 – Once you’ve read your email do something with it!
This is a big one – first rule, don’t read it if you don’t have time to do something with it! So back to planning actual email time in your day, so you’ve blocked out time to deal with these dastardly things.
Once read you have 4 choices
Delete – you’ve read it, there is nothing more to be done with it.
Reply – the email deserves a reply, give it one. Then either delete (you’ve dealt with it) or file, but don’t just leave it there in the inbox. Give it a home.
File it – it doesn’t need a reply, but you want to keep it for reference for later.
Unsubscribe – see above!
5 – Create a junk email
So, you love filling in questionnaires and setting up free things, I get it, we all do it from time to time. Create a junk email account and give that one out – that way it won’t fill up your primary email address.
There, hopefully that will leave you with a little more freedom and less AHHH around your email inbox. I know even with taking these 5 points into consideration they can still build up. But a word of caution here, if you don’t keep in top of it, you might miss a vital lead from a potential customer. So, here’s my final point.
6 – Make time in your diary to clear your inbox
Even after taking into account all these points, you may find your inbox keeps filling up – you put aside an hour a week just to clear it out to zero – it’s so satisfying!
Happy emailing people!