1. Get a Head Start
Start early in the morning! The most successful people will tell you that it’s important to get on top of your emails right away; it also feels awesome to go into the office with a clear inbox to ‘start’ your day. Also, there’s generally less emails coming in between 5 am and 6am when others are getting ready for their days, so you are able to clear the box without it filling right back up again – bonus! Also, if you clear your inbox first thing in the morning then you are up to date when you walk into the office and are able to get a strong start prioritizing your day.
“I start checking email around 5 a.m. I do leave emails marked as unread to indicate for myself which ones require action. Opening and closing an email multiple times is a waste of time so I try to attack the email then and there the first time I read it. If you can’t respond immediately to someone’s email, try to at least give them an immediate reply with an expected timing for full response. In a day and age when everyone is ‘always on’ and ‘always connected,’ it’s frustrating not to receive a reply from someone. Extend the courtesy of replying as quickly as possible, even if you can’t provide a complete answer or follow-up; then follow up fully when you can.” —Doreen Bloch, co-founder and CEO of Poshly.com
2. Respond Right Away
…or as quickly as you can. It’s easy to keep an inbox organized if you see and respond right away! There is nothing worse (or certainly more overwhelming) than the little brackets beside the word inbox showing (1,582) – so read, respond, and/or flag the email as soon as you can and the backlog won’t accumulate!
“I reply to the more straightforward emails quickly or on-the-go so I don’t forget to get back to people but flag emails that need longer, more thoughtful responses to come back to when I have the headspace or necessary information to properly respond. It’s not a perfect system, but it is my own form of organized chaos.” —Lauren Bush Lauren, Founder and CEO of FEED
3. Flag for Follow-Up
If you can’t respond immediately, then send a quick acknowledgment note and flag the email for further review. Most email services make it easy to click a flag button and save the email for later; this is especially important for email’s that require more thought, some research, or some consideration prior to sending a proper response.
“I read my emails at LEAST 10 times a day and ALWAYS flag ones that require more thoughtful follow up and respond to those at end of day. I try to avoid email on the weekends altogether.” —Stacy London, style expert and host of new TLC show Love, Lust or Run
4. Use Your Inbox to Your Advantage
If the content of the email is particularly important, flag it! The flag function is not only for email’s that needs responding, but also those that require follow up due to their importance. Also, I often use my email inbox as a pseudo-to-do list, I often lose post-it’s so I send myself an email with the website I want to check out, or the groceries I need to pick up – then I flag them for follow up so they’re front and center!
“With the amount of emails I get, I have no choice but to check a million times a day and file as I go. I leave the ones to be answered in my inbox and anything else I delete or file into different categories such as ‘Contacts to Save’ or ‘Receipts.’ There’s no day off, really…I’m lucky if there’s ever an hour off!” —Shea Marie, founder of Peach Love Shea
5. Sync Your Inbox
If you’re a techie, or at least a person on the go, syncing your inbox is the most important thing. I have my most important accounts sync to my mobile phone, my tablet, and my computer so regardless of where I am – I get the email! It’s also a good idea to sync other apps to your email. For example: I use the calendar on my Samsung Alpha to enter in my appointments etc. I can ask the calendar to remind me of my appointment – which is does by sending me an email close to the appointment time. This is another great way to stay on top of the things you need to do, meetings you might have, or appointments you can’t miss.
6. Schedule a Break from Email
Personal time is so important, take time to not check your inbox every day; whether it’s in the evening during your kid’s soccer game or during your favourite TV show. Make sure that you take time for yourself. It’s healthy to be able to ‘turn-off’ and relax, your brain needs it to sleep! You shouldn’t use any technology for an hour or two before bed to be able to get the best rest before your next day.
“When I get up in the morning, I reach for my phone and scroll through my emails for ones that are obvious and easy to get rid of. Then, after breakfast with my daughter, I try to clean my inbox out by 10 a.m. My biggest email weakness is not going back to the ones that require some thought rather than an immediate response. I tend to open everything and address nothing. To make this worse, I’m terrible at being able to ignore my inbox no matter what else I’m doing. I’ve had to often turn off my internet so I can write, undisturbed by the emails that come in.” —Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef host