The inbox is an equal opportunity offender. Emails have no respect for office hours or lunch time. They wild out at all hours and it's on us to manage. How? We asked five women-- those who run their own companies and those who freelance, all about their unique processes.
The bad and the good of it-- the inbox will never stop. At least as long as you're making moves. So here's the breakdown on how these bosses HANDLE their inboxes and whittle that number down to zero.
TINA WELLS, FOUNDER & CEO BUZZ MARKETING GROUP
Staying on top of and managing emails is a top priority for me. I average about 500 each day. I answer whatever I can immediately. I also have an amazing team at BuzzMG, and I'm fortunate to have an internal shorthand with them, so even just forwarding a note with a meeting request and not having to specify "please set up a coffee meeting with xx" saves so much time.
My team doesn't really use email to communicate. We use Slack and store important files in Dropbox, so it's really easy to do our work and send messages without email.
I swear by Scott Belsky's book "Making Ideas Happen" and make sure I clear out all back burner emails by the last day of the month. I file important notes from clients in specific folders. I also have years worth of sent emails. You never know when you need to find important info!
IVKA ADAM, FOUNDER & CEO ICONERY
Some of the best advice I ever got had to do with email strategy: when you need someone to get back to you on multiple topics, make each one a separate email with clearly defined and themed email subject lines. Why? Because some of the topics maybe shorter and easier to respond to than others and you’re not waiting on the person at the other end to gather responses to all topics at once.
This has helped tremendously to both facilitate efficiency and keep my inbox to a minimum.
JASMINE STAR, BRAND & MARKETING GURU
My business is built on personal connection. My entire focus is on making sure people feel seen, heard, and known. As a result, I have set strict hours of operation and engagement. Yes, that means, I allocate 70 minutes every morning to respond to all email. Other than that time, I don't respond to email until the next day. Similarly, I set certain times to blog and engage on social media. I do my best to interact with people who are interacting with me.
KARIN ELDOR, FREELANCE WRITER & CONTENT CREATOR
"Touch it Once" This one changed my life. It's exactly that: when you open an email and read it, don't let it sit idly in your inbox. If it will take you less than 5 minutes to reply, then do it on the spot and file it away. Don't start reading the same email more than once, it's a huge time suck. Of course there are emails that deserve more thought or even a more in-depth reply. In this case, reply right away to confirm receipt, and let the sender know they can expect a response "by EOD," or whatever timeline makes sense.
Then sit down and draft your reply, during your dedicated email time. The point is, because we get in the habit of checking our email on-the-go, while waiting for our favorite Netflix show to cue up, and basically all the time, we end up reading the same email more than once and not doing anything about it. By the way, "touch it once" is a great productivity tip to apply to all tasks, especially for the perfectionists out there! If it will take you 2 minutes, just get it done and move on.
No cherry-picking: When you scan your inbox, don't be selective with what you read and reply to. First do a quick scan for urgencies. Then open and reply to your emails in sequence, rather than "cherry-picking" the ones you deal with ASAP. This one's a bit tougher to stick to, but you'll see that managing your inbox during scheduled blocks of time throughout the day and blasting through your inbox, is much more productive than dealing with rando emails, all day.
BELMA McCAFFREY, WRITER & CREATOR OF WORK BIGGER
Unroll.me is an app that lets me quickly unsubscribe from emails that are no longer relevant, and it allows me to roll up some of my emails so I can review them all at once versus reading them throughout the day.
I also just started using Boomerang for Gmail. I can schedule reminders to read certain messages later versus leaving them as unread in my inbox. This eases my stress level because I don't have "unread" messages staring at me reminding me of tasks I need to complete.
Although difficult, I also like to schedule when I check my email throughout the day. I aim for once in the morning, once around lunchtime, and once in the evening. This is less about controlling my inbox and more about controlling how I respond to the inbox. It makes me feel more in control and organized, with 100+ emails a day and all.