Computers and the internet have connected us to the whole world and to people, some of whom we know well, some business associates and some mere acquaintances. Where addresses and phone numbers were once exchanged, we now exchange email addresses, and as our circle of acquaintances increases, so does our list of contacts. For businesses it makes sense to grow this list because every contact can be a potential customer, but as the list grows so does our inbox. It is not unusual to find hundreds of mails in the inbox on a typical day and wonder where, when and how you are going to go through them. Many of us decide to put this task on the long finger which only compounds the problem, the longer your inbox in left untouched the more you will have to deal with when you finally summon the courage to dive in. There are a quite a few tips and tricks that can be used to get your inbox under control and keep it that way.
A few solutions to this problem come to mind. These include:
- Act now, do not procrastinate– The inbox showing 200 unread messages is unnerving, and you tend to click away to more urgent pressing tasks. But stress is building up at the back of your mind, since there is already a long list of urgent tasks to be completed, and here you have these mails to go through. So you put it off and decide to check them later. A few hours later, when a number of other tasks have been accomplished, you decide to clear a few mails, and you find the number has already reached 250. Again you want to run away, but don’t, the longer you postpone, the more the number of mails piling up. So act here and now and even if you are able to clear 50 of them, something is better than nothing.
- Assign a time slot to mails and replies– As a business owner there is no doubt that you have your hands full, but it may not be so difficult to assign perhaps thirty minutes in the day to clearing mails. And during those 30 minutes, you will do only that, and not get distracted, accept phone calls, or click away from the mail box to check the status of another task. By doing so, the inbox will remain lighter, and quicker action can be taken on some crucial issues.
- Find out which mails can be avoided- A close look at the list of mails will reveal many unnecessary ones, which have been subscribed to, just because it is difficult to refuse with many mails offering discounts and promotions. These must be unsubscribed immediately, and the numbers will come down substantially. Similarly it may be time to get out of mailing lists, for example Google Lists etc.
- Avoid flagging emails- many people flag emails to read later, but they perhaps never get opened, so why flag them at all. It is better to go through them during the email checking time, take action and have it off the list. This will help in reducing the flagged ones.
- Create folders wherever possible- It always helps to create folders for regular emails linked to work and are from the same source. Then it becomes easier to look at that folder, rather than having to search for work related mails through the hundreds in the inbox. Similarly comments and feedbacks can go into another folder. Any subscribed RSS feeds can go into a separate folder so that they do not serve as a distraction. This will help in simplifying actions to be taken on each mail.
- Delegating to others- As the business grows, and you employ more people, you may find that it is not necessary for you to reply to all the emails and take action. Many of them can be handled by an employee, who should pass on only the most relevant ones to you as the business owner. This will reduce your workload phenomenally.
These simple steps will help you to keep a lean and trim inbox rather than one bursting at the seams. The results will manifest themselves in higher efficiency levels and a more organized work place even online.