Let’s be frank today: are you a slave to your inbox? And by slave I mean: is your inbox running your day instead of you owning your schedule?
I have to be honest, for a long time I let email (and my inbox) rule my time. But after realising how unproductive it was to be checking it so many times a day and allowing it to run my schedule rather than me being in the drivers seat, I knew I needed to adjust my approach.
The instant gratification we get from seeing a new message pop up in our inbox can be highly addictive. The natural response is to look at it immediately, and when you do this you're effectively allowing email to take you away from other tasks and activities you should be focused on.
Thing is, when you're in constant reactive mode, it means you’re being less productive and intentional about your work. Each time you allow the distraction of email take you away from what you need to be doing, you lose focus and it takes you way longer to get back into the flow of what you were supposed to be working on.
Enter: the intentional inbox.
Here are 4 quick and easy strategies that allow you to be more intentional about your inbox, firmly placing you back in the drivers seat:
Batching is a great way to be more efficient with your time and simply means grouping (batching) similar tasks together that can be done at the same time. Email is the perfect task to apply the concept of batching to, where you limit checking to emails to certain times of the day.
This will depend on your individual circumstances, but if you can get it down to checking and responding to emails 3-4 times a day, you will suddenly notice you have a lot more time - win!
Here are some ways you can make this work for you:
- Turn off all email notifications on your desktop + phone.
- Shut down your email client when you’re not actively using it (so you nip the habit of checking it when you’re mid-work)
- Remove email from your phone so you aren’t tempted to check it on the go.
- Set up an auto-responder to let people know you only check email 3 times a day to set the expectation for when you will respond and if the matter is urgent to call (or get in contact with you by another means).
2. Create a bank of standard responses.
This is a genius way to work smarter if you find yourself responding to people with similar kinds of emails. Of course you will still need to write personal response, but there are some cases where standard responses will work.
Some suggestions are: to on-board new clients; saying yes/no to collaborations; interview requests; and general enquiries for your work/blog/biz.
Create a bank of these responses and so when an email does pop up you can automatically refer to it and voila! Time saved!
3. Save time with a phone call.
Sometimes it can be quicker to make a phone call to someone rather than spending time typing out an email. Be consciously aware of when responding by email is taking you longer than it would to make a quick call instead. This can be a huge time-saver!
4. Prioritise and sort.
This requires some real effort upfront to create a system that works, but the benefits are huge. Set up categories and flags for your emails to store them and determine how quickly you need to respond. Client and new business emails will be a high priority, but you may want to create separate categories for collaboration and / or guest post requests.
Here are a few of my favourite tools to help you be more organised:
- Unroll Me - this handy app checks all the email lists you are currently subscribed to and with one click you can remove all that you no longer want to be part of.
- Mailbox - this awesome app helps you get to ‘zero inbox’ by prompting you to archive and categorise emails to respond to later or be reminded about on a future date. Best news it’s now available as web app on iOS and it is brilliant. I switched over from using gmail and I’m loving the ability to create ‘lists’ of emails as a way to organise emails I'm not ready to archive or delete.
- IF (formerly IFTTT) - create ‘recipes’ to handle your inbox and move emails into certain folder or lists as they come in for example, I have a recipe set up to automatically move anything marked ‘receipt’ or invoice into another folder. Get creative and use this to set up systems that work for you!
Remember: you are in control of your day and how it unfolds. This extends to your inbox. Be intentional about it, take back your time + watch your productivity flourish!
If you liked this post you’re going to LOVE my new eCourse Make It Happen, launching in March. Sign up to be first to know about it here.
Does email rule your day? What can you start doing today that will free up some of your time?