5 Tips for Better Managing Your Business Email Overload

In the simplest terms, that means you may only start working on anything of value on Wednesday of each week. Yeah – let that sink in.

We’ve all seen the memes of the split-screen photo explaining that there are two kinds of people. On one side, a mobile device’s inbox with zero notifications. On the other, an inbox overflowing with a menacingly red five-digit number notification.

Empty vs Full Email Inbox - BELAY

Which one are you?

Because if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, you’re likely more familiar with the latter scenario. But in your defense, you may want to be the zeroed-out inbox. And maybe, once upon a time, you were that person. But then life and business and busyness happened.

And if it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. In fact, independent research found that the average employee spends 40 percent of their work week addressing internal emails, which often have little to no value – and that’s just internal emails.

In the simplest terms, that means you may only start working on anything of value on Wednesday of each week. Yeah – let that sink in.

So we’ve rounded up some of the best tips for how to manage your email efficiently and effectively for your business.

How to Manage Email Efficiently and Effectively for Business

1. Designate A Time

  • Do schedule specific blocks of time throughout the day for checking your email, whether it’s once an hour for 10 minutes or a handful of times per day.
  • Don’t leave your email open all day as alerts, beeps and pop-ups from incoming messages are disruptive.
  • Do mark your calendar to ‘busy’ during those times. If you want to take that one step further, you can set an out-of-office reply for those designated times such as this:

"Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to email twice daily at 12n ET and 4 p.m. ET. If you require urgent assistance that can’t wait, please call me at 555-555-5555."

2. Unsubscribe

Now, it’s time to set up boundaries for everyone else. While upfront this can take a little while, take the time to go through all junk, unsolicited or spam emails and block, unsubscribe and delete whenever possible. Shortcut? Search for the term ‘unsubscribe’ to quickly locate all the senders from whom you can opt out. Goodbye newsletters, promotional emails, and solicitations!

3. Address Immediately

Don’t put off until ‘later’ or tomorrow something that you can address in a few seconds or minutes today – or, better yet, right now. First, delete any emails that are known spam or junk. Then, do a quick scan for emails that snuck past your ‘unsubscribe’ step earlier. Then and only then will you be able to evaluate the urgency and nature of the remaining emails and address them accordingly.

4. Organize

We’ve seen – and tried – a lot of different email organizations – folder, subfolders, labels, etc. – but this one from FastCompany boldly suggests that there are only five email folders you’ll ever need to take control of your inbox.

i. Inbox: Emails only stay here as long as it takes for you to move them to another folder.
ii. Today: Everything that requires a response today.
iii. This Week: Everything that requires a response before the end of the week.
iv. This Month/Quarter: Everything that needs a longer-term response.
v. FYI: Most emails are informational, so save those here.

Then, if necessary, create subcategories for clients or projects. (Sound like too much work? A BELAY Virtual Assistant could do this for you. Together you guys can create a process so email doesn’t consume your day.)

5. Lead By Example

You get what you give so if you send a lot of emails, you’ll receive a lot of emails. Many people are surprised to learn how many fewer emails they’ll receive if they limit how many they send, too. Because while it kind of presents a chicken vs. egg scenario, you may find that you – GASP! – may actually be the initiator.

The same goes for Cc and Bcc. Don’t add more people to a thread than absolutely necessary. Adding more recipients than necessary is much like the multiplying effect of a Ponzi scheme: You recruit two friends, then they each recruit a few friends and so on and so on … until you’re in email overload. Again.

See? That wasn’t so bad, was it? With a little proactive management and effort, your inbox could become the inbox on the left – with no red enumerated circles of doom. Now, instead of spending nearly half of your weekly working hours dealing with emails, you can get back to tasks that actually matter – like growing your business!