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Tips For Managing Inbox Overwhelm

Did you know that the average person checks their work email 15 times a day?  🤯


Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I’ll throw in a bonus fun fact: research has shown that when we switch tasks (like, when we stop working on a client project to check our email) it can take up to 23 minutes to get back on task?! 


23 minutes, 15 times a day…


I’m no mathematician, but my quick calculations tell me that means you could be losing up to 4 hours a day in productivity.


FOUR. HOURS.


Now that’s kind of a big deal.



Aside from majorly cutting into your productivity, an overflowing inbox can  actually spike your stress levels and contribute to a general feeling of overwhelm. 📈


Even when we have fully checked off all our to-do’s for the week, we still can’t feel completely at ease because those unopened emails are always there, lurking in the background, reminding us that we aren’t actually done with EVERYTHING.


So let’s avoid that and get into a little inbox cleanup...


3 Steps For Managing & Maintaining Your Overwhelming Inbox


Step 1: Setting Your Boundaries


The easiest way to set your boundaries around email? Setting up an autoresponder!

Simply head into your email inbox and set up your auto response. This should be left on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


This will help you set up response time expectations. your clients aren't expecting you to reply to them within 15 minutes or on a Saturday night.  


Here’s an example: 


Hi there! 

Thank you for your email! In an effort to be present with my clients + community, I check email once per day.  Please allow 48 - 72 hours for a reply. 


In the meantime, click HERE [INSERT LINK] to listen to my podcast/read my blog/etc and make sure we’re connected on INSTAGRAM [INSERT LINK]


If you’re interested in working together and want to book a consult/clarity call/breakthrough session/etc, click HERE [INSERT LINK] to schedule. 


Talk soon,

Kristen


Now, people know that you received their email, but they ALSO know not to expect an immediate response from you.  This lifts some of the pressure off to constantly be checking your email and replying. 


You’ve got time, my friend!  As a bonus, you’re doing a little bit of self promotion by asking them to check out your blog or social media channels!


Here are a few more healthy inbox boundaries for you to consider:


➡️ Get out of your inbox by choosing two times per day to check your email.


For me, this looks like checking at 9am and 1pm. I make it a point not to even glance at your inbox outside of those times.


➡️ Don’t send your emails right away!


We’re entrepreneurs and online business owners and sometimes our work day doesn’t exactly coincide with a 9-5 schedule.  There have been many times where the only moments I could get to complete client work was from 7-10pm, after my kids when to bed. 


But everyone else doesn’t have to know we are burning the midnight oil.  When I compose an email or respond to an email after “working hours”, I make sure to use schedule send, so that it will be sent out the following day at 9am. 


Here’s why: if you send your client a proposal at 9:45, and they’re also an entrepreneur, they’ll likely be checking their email at the same time. This means that they’ll think you’re awake and doing work, so they respond with a question. 


Next thing you know, you’re in a 5 deep email chain at 11pm.  Talk about unproductive.

Set a boundary that you only communicate with clients from 10-4, or 9-5, whatever works best for you and stick to it.


➡️ Take your business email OFF your personal phone.


You don’t need to be interrupted all day long by constant notifications or feeling the buzz on your Apple Watch when you’re supposed to be watching your son’s baseball game.




Step 2: Organize Your Inbox


Now that you have your boundaries set up, it’s time to get down to business.  We’ve got to get your inbox in tip top shape.


 If your inbox is overflowing and you have thousands of unread emails, I want you to know that this IS NOT a one day process.  If you try to do too much in one day you will quickly get burnt out.  


So I’d suggest setting a timer for 30 minutes and follow the steps below.  Once the timer goes off, close your inbox until the next day, and start again.


Here’s how to get started:


➡️Do a quick scan of your inbox.


Are you receiving any PERSONAL emails at your BUSINESS email address?


If so, now is the time to change your contact information in their system, or, in the case of Great Aunt Betty, take a minute to send her a nice “hi, how are you?” email letting her know that she should direct all future correspondence to your personal email address.


NOTE: To my fellow super shoppers - this includes store emails.  I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you do NOT need the latest White House Black Market or NSale emails cluttering up your inbox and distracting you.


➡️ Next up is to start unsubscribing. 


You’ll start with anything obvious like the store emails I mentioned above.  Then go through any email newsletters you signed up for but never read. 


Our lives change, our businesses change, and the email list we signed up for in 2019 may not be as relevant now.


➡️ Start creating folders to sort emails that you need to keep.


This is exactly how I have my inbox set up:



Anything that needs my immediate attention is dragged into the “Needs Action” folder.


Emails that contain information that I might need in the future (warranties, affiliate information) is moved in into the “Reference” Folder


Sometimes I don’t have time to scroll to the bottom of an email, find the unsubscribe link, answer the survey question, etc.  I’ll drag these into the “Unsubscribe” folder, and when I have 20-30 minutes free at some point, I’ll head into that folder and start unsubscribing.


Inside the client email folder are subfolders for every client, along with a subfolder called “Archive”.  I drag all client emails into their appropriate folders so I can easily keep track of them. 


Any time I download a freebie, purchase an online course, or receive an email that contains information I’m interested in, I drag it into the “To Review” folder.  I set aside time monthly to review the emails in this folder. 


This will look different for everyone! Create the folders that make the most sense for YOU!


Step 3: Maintain


Ahhh…doesn’t that feel good.  It’s like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders!



Now that your inbox is sparkling clean, it’s important to maintain it.  This will be an ongoing effort, so to keep it up, I recommend creating a weekly or biweekly task to clean up and organize your inbox so that it doesn’t get overwhelming.  (That can happen fast!!)


In order to maintain my inbox, I keep a few things in mind:


First, I have a Touch it Once Policy: I read the email, and then do whatever it is I need to do to either respond or file. I don’t keep ignoring it and then re-reading it every time you’re back in my inbox.


Then, I review emails with 4 D’s in mind: Do, Delete, Delegate, Defer.


➡️ Do - If you can complete the task in three minutes or less, JUST DO IT!


For quick responses, appointment confirmations, or reminders, deal with them right at that time. Anything that takes longer than three minutes should go on your task list and be taken care of at a later time.


➡️ Delete - A majority of the emails you receive can be deleted the moment you see them, but we often hesitate to delete them “in case” we need them later.


If it doesn’t contain information that is directly related to you or the information could be found elsewhere, just delete it.  I give you permission.  If you do need to save it, move it into the appropriate folder so it’s not cluttering up your inbox. 


➡️ Delegate -  Free up more time for you to focus on the areas of your business that only you can work on (marketing, client work) and see if the task can be delegated to your Virtual Assistant or business manager.


Obviously This one is only applicable if you have a team, otherwise you’d file it under “Do” or “Defer” 


➡️ Defer - When you can’t deal with the email in under two minutes, delete it immediately, or you don’t have a team to delegate to, you’ll want to defer. 


Usually, these are tasks that will require you to work with focused attention. Drag it into the appropriate folder and set a task for yourself to complete the task at a later time. 


Ready To Enjoy Your Newly Organized Inbox?


There you have it – three steps to taking control of your inbox!


So often, inbox management & organization seems to fall dead last on our to do list. It seems time consuming and well, kinda boring.


But let me tell you from experience, although it will definitely take some time to get used to doing things this way, I promise you the amount of free time and brain space you will gain will make it all worth it!


If you're still spending time in your inbox trying to figure out how to write the perfect email to your clients, I've compiled 30 essential email scripts (plus emails for tough client situations) HERE.


Here's to inbox zero! 🥂

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