My journey to inbox efficiency
As a busy entrepreneur, I receive a plethora of emails daily. Over the years, I have refined my approach to managing them, ensuring I don't become overwhelmed. In this post, I'll share my tips for handling hundreds of emails per day while maintaining productivity and focus.
Finding the best way to tackle emails is crucial for me. The notion that others can encroach on my time by sending emails is unsettling. I reserve email for external communication, while internal team conversations take place through Slack.
Responding swiftly to my partners is a priority. External parties often relish direct communication with the CEO. A leader's ability to reply promptly is vital, as delays may result in missed opportunities or hinder decision-making.
An overflowing inbox can induce stress and anxiety, hindering my focus on other important tasks. Only a handful of daily emails require my immediate attention; the rest are either spam or can be dealt with automatically.
Recently, I have consistently achieved inbox zero, and I'd like to share some of the tips and techniques that have helped me get there.
Initially, I automated the processing of most of my emails. To achieve this, I carefully selected my email tools, opting for Gmail as my email provider due to its robust anti-spam capabilities and compatibility with numerous external apps. For an email client, I chose Front because of its powerful features, such as rules, multiple email addresses, and exceptional team features like comments, team inboxes, and email delegation. The collaborative features of Front are indispensable for a CEO handling emails.
Within Front, I set up automatic rules to manage emails, such as forwarding invoices to accounting, blocking specific senders, and archiving emails that I want to store but don't need to read immediately.
Given the sheer volume of commercial emails and subsequent automated follow-ups I receive, I now block these senders outright. The bombardment has become intolerable.
Maintaining strict email hygiene is essential. I promptly unsubscribe from unwanted automatic emails, like newsletters and notifications, and mark unsolicited messages as spam. This practice is crucial for avoiding email inundation over time.
Many emails that reach me are better suited for my team to address. While everyone wants to contact the CEO directly, I delegate emails to the appropriate team member. For other emails, I collaborate with my team using Front's private comments feature before sending the response myself. This approach minimizes internal emails and streamlines communication with my accounting, legal, operations, and sales teams. Some emails are simply moved to group inboxes and managed by team members.
Next come the emails that demand my personal attention.
For some, I employ a powerful technique: I don't reply. I constantly evaluate whether a response is truly necessary. Previously, I believed replying to all emails was a mark of professionalism, and I felt guilty for not responding to certain messages. Now, I judiciously choose which emails to answer, considering the time cost involved in crafting each response.
For emails that warrant a reply, I respond as quickly as possible, ideally upon reading the message. My goal is to provide concise responses that minimize back-and-forth communication.
Snoozing is another valuable tool, although I try to use it sparingly. I snooze specific emails to ensure I can manage them at the most appropriate time, such as when I need to switch from my mobile phone to my computer.
Then there are the more challenging emails – those that cannot be handled in under five minutes. I address most of these during designated "Email Killing Time" slots in my schedule. Instead of replying as emails arrive, I batch process them at specific times throughout the week, aiming to reach inbox zero within a one-hour time frame.
Emails that I can't manage during Email Killing Time, due to their time-consuming nature, are added to my to-do list in Asana. I may send a brief reply to inform the sender that a more detailed response will take time, then archive the email. It will only be reopened once the task is completed.
To reduce the time spent managing emails, I avoid using folders for classification. I seldom categorize emails, with the exception of multi-month, email-intensive projects or complex topics requiring a comprehensive overview of conversation history. Fortunately, such cases are rare.
Maintaining an efficient email management system is a daily challenge that demands discipline, and I've experienced my share of failures.
After analyzing these instances, I found that delays occur when handling time-consuming emails. For example, reviewing lengthy contracts or making difficult decisions that require thorough analysis. With a busy schedule, it can be tough to allocate sufficient time for these tasks, especially when they aren't the highest priority or are particularly unappealing.
Naturally, there's still room for improvement in my email management approach. While I'm not perfect, the techniques I've shared here have significantly reduced the time and energy spent handling emails. I hope some of these tips inspire you!
If you have any magical tips for tackling your inbox, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this blog!