It probably sounds really cliche, obvious and super simple, BUT staying on top of your email is seriously one of the best things you can do for yourself in business. Personally, I start feeling super stressed if my box starts to get beyond 50+ unread emails. And sometimes when I get overwhelmed, I become less productive and I'm more likely to procrastinate, on top of feeling a certain level of anxiety and guilt. Which I realize makes zero sense, but it's something that I've noticed. Maybe you relate?
I also want to point out that answering emails often leads to big opportunities. It's crazy to think that there might be an email sitting in your box right now that might lead you to a new venture, a new opportunity, a long term partnership, etc. There might be an unread email sitting in your box this very second that could change your life a little bit—so don't miss it! But, it's hard! Staying on top of an ever-growing pile of messages that need decisions, research, answers, etc. is not always an easy task. But over the years, I feel like I've gotten better and better in this area, and I'd love to share five tips I've learned with you.
1. Answer tough emails first.
I know, you don't want to answer that one first. I get it. And I have a tendency to think, "Oh I'll just gain some momentum by answering these quick ones first, and then I'll get back to that really time-consuming one later." But honestly, it doesn't usually work that way. I usually end up NOT getting to the tough one later, and then putting it off for longer than it needs. Meanwhile it's on my mind and distracting me from my other work. So, the best thing I've found is to tackle the tough ones first. Get it off your plate and out of your mind so you can move on to other tasks.
2. Create template answers for FAQs.
This is especially useful if you are working for yourself and you handle a lot of "customer service" type emails. A lot of times you'll get the same or very similar questions over and over again. Create a template answer that you can quickly copy and paste, and then maybe just customize a little to make it feel more authentic before you hit send. This can save you SO much time. Of course, there are emails where it would be inappropriate to send a templated answer. So just make sure you know the difference.
3. Organize and sort mail into folders.
This is actually a trick that Trey does really well. Not only does it help you prioritize what emails might need a faster response or just more attention, it can also be beneficial when you need to go back through emails to find information you may have forgotten or need again. Depending on what email system you use, there are different ways to accomplish this. And I know one barrier will be finding the time to just set this up, but add it to your to-do list one week to spend a couple hours creating your tabs or folders or however you plan to organize things, and I promise it will be time well spent.
4. Unsubscribe to junk.
I am subscribed to quite a few newsletters. I use the information many of them provide and I do want to receive some of them (like for sales at favorite shops, etc.). I know a lot of people will set up a different, more personal, email for these types of things so that it won't distract from their work email account (and if you work at a company that issues you a specific email, then you already have this built in). But it can also be a good exercise to go through and make sure you are actually still using and enjoying all the newsletters you are signed up for. If not, unsubscribe. It will only take a few seconds and will save you time as you won't have to receive those emails any longer. You can always sign up again if you find that you want back in. 🙂
5. Out of Office setting is only for when you actually need it.
This is partly a tip and partly a pet peeve of mine. When I email someone about something important, like potential freelance work, and I get an out of office response (or no response at all for 2+ days), then I expect they are on vacation or in some situation where they don't have Internet. BUT, if I hop on Instagram and see that they are not on vacation, I likely will reconsider working with them because I find this to be very unprofessional. We all have to take time off or have situations from time to time where we don't have good Internet access and can't respond. I am the same way. I also don't always check email on the weekends, so I don't usually expect others to. But sometimes I see people, especially creatives who tend to mostly freelance or work for themselves, use vacation settings as a way to simply not answer emails in a timely manner. Don't do this. It looks unprofessional to others and it's certainly a trap for yourself. Don't give yourself a free pass just because you've gotten overwhelmed. Get in that email box and make some progress. You got this.
If anyone has other tips for getting through that sometimes-overwhelming email box, feel free to share! xo. Emma
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photo edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.
That’s a really good tip to look for really good recommendations staying on top of your emails. It’s indeed a great article which will help people to email tips. it was really helpful. Keep Posting!
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A great tip, Thank you. I always try to pay lazy Email fastest within 24 hours after receiving.
I needed this! My emails pile up then I have to sit down and dominate! Some emails could be a week old and I know fast response is huge! Thanks for posting!
It is really tough to stay on the ball with emails! I am finding myself unsubscribing to many newsletters as I just cannot keep up with them. I maintain a read (reply if necessary) and delete (or file) immediately method to stay on track.
X Min, honeyandgazelle.wordpress.com
Thanks for the tips!
Great tips! I always try to respond to emails within 24 hours of receiving them. With those tougher ones that I want to put more time into, I’ll usually just shot the person a pre-game email to the effect of “Hey, I haven’t forgotten about you, I just have a ton of stuff to do and I want to make sure I answer all of your questions the best I can!”
Great tips! Going along with #4, I use unroll.me it bundles all of my subscribed mail (mostly promotions and some newsletters) and I can set how many times a day they will send me a bundled email. I receive them in the morning and scan through to see if there are any good deals or articles I’m interested in and only takes me a couple minutes as opposed to the 20+ minutes it would take me to go through and read or delete them all. There is also a quick unsubscribe page for any new subscriptions or things you’re no longer interested in receiving.
I definitely get stressed out by my email. Mine stresses me out when it goes over 20. I have multiple emails and try to keep them for specific purposes: professional, blog, newsletters, etc. But, sometimes they crossover and I feel myself overwhelmed by spam and letting the important stuff slide. I have folders in all of my emails that I utilize daily as I like to keep business-related ones for later reference. This post is great and has some really helpful points. Thanks for sharing!
The only way I can keep on top of mine is by having them come to my phone, flag the ones that need attention and reply to those that are quick. Failing that- hire someone haha!
I get about 400 work emails a day. I don’t personally have to address all of them, as many are due to being part of a listserv/group email address. But I do have to go through every single one of them and make sure they are NOT for me and the person who they are for is actually included on the email. I have become very adept at breaking even my most time consuming tasks into smaller chunks so that I can stay on top of emails! It’s been a great skill to learn. When the phone rings, I always know exactly how to save my place so I can pick it right back up. The most I go without checking my email during work hours is about 15 minutes.
I love love LOVE the idea of tackling tough emails first.
This was such a helpful post to read!
I am a florist, and became one because I love creating things with my hands and working with flowers, but what I had not anticipated getting into this biz was the pile upon pile of emails (aghhh!).
I am guilty of the very thing that is your pet peeve, so this really motivated me to get it together and answer as much as I can during the week because a potential client could feel the same way as you. Thank you again!
Great tips Emma! Especially unsubscribing to junk mail-ugh it takes forever but definitely reduces the load!
On the Out-Of-Office subject, it’s funny, I never thought of it that way before! (As being unprofessional.) I loved this post by Sarah Von Bargen about creative and smart ways to use your Out-Of-Office: http://www.sarahvonbargen.com/blogging/how-to-ignore-emails/ It has examples of great autoresponders used by busy bloggers and creatives. I don’t see it as unprofessional, but rather almost like a template response: a timesaver for all involved.
Color coding is how I keep all of my emails organized. It’s just so much easier to find emails at a glance, if they’re color coded by topic. It also helps to color code in ways that make sense. For example, green for finances and blue for health. I use a red to keep track of all of my emails for my blog, Red Leaf Style, (get it, get it), but red would make sense to indicate important emails. Give it a try. I bet you’ll love it!
All great tips! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Would you share more in-depth on methods for email folders?aybe a future post?
I really enjoy your blog!
Great tips. I’ll be incorporating a few with what I already do. I have folders already made up and I unsubscribe from all junk. I like that you answer tough emails first (kind of getting them off your plate so you can enjoy the best ones last).
Side note: Is that your keyboard in the pic? I love it!
Wow Emma I can’t believe how well you hit the nail on the head of becoming less productive when you’re overwhelmed with something, and the ensuing cycle of guilt–anxiety–even less productivity etc. I can totally relate! This is me procrastinating right now..
Thanks for articulating this and helping me realise how to combat my own self-destruction 🙂
Great ideas Emma, I will add to mine.
What has helped me of=ver the last few months is the following. I set aside 10mins max, (and I tiem it) each morning the first thing when I hit my desk. I quickly go through emails from the today and delete very quickly a lot os teh time before even ready more than the heading. I have had to be disaplined with this as you can so easierly get caught for 30-40mins just reading crap emails that ad nothing to your day. I lot that you just dont even miss that you have deleted. Trust me this is a ral tiem saving and frees up you in box within the first 15 mins of your day and then you cna plan what you need to get to first. My system is this: After quickly deleting the “excess no value today emails” I have 2 folders for daily to do emails. One for short 5-10 mins emails and another for the longer harder one. I start with the short ones and do them in 30-40 min block then tackle on hard one untill im through the list. Any new that come in ove rthe day are straight away pulled into the correct folder so my deck inbox feel and looks uncluttered. So far it works brilliantly. But with you tips added as well should keep me on track and sane. Tahnsk agin and have agreat week, Regards, Daryl