Emails can take up a lot of your time. Find out what you can do to improve your email productivity, with new organization tips, third-party apps, and more.
Like most people, you likely receive an influx of email everyday, and not all of it is useful. The time you spend wading through spam, sales offers, and email newsletters is time you could devote to more important activities, like your business.
Entrepreneurs often have many roles, from negotiator to human resource manager to chief technology officer. With all these hats to wear, you need all the time-saving tricks you can get. Regain control of your inbox to supercharge your productivity and get back to growing your business.
1. Create an Email Management System
A 2017 study of 1,500 business professionals found that the average knowledge worker in Canada sends 86 work-related emails per day while at work and 25 from home, according to Carleton University. What portion of these business emails are truly urgent? Not all email requires an immediate response or any action at all. Develop an email management system that encourages decision-making and caters to how you work.
- By deadline: Set up separate folders to manage emails that need a response today, this week, or later in the month. Organizing your inbox by deadline creates an actionable to-do list. You can tackle the most vital messages first and perform weekly inventory to handle the rest. If you have emails that don’t require a reply but contain useful information, make another folder for reference info.
- By task: Segment your inbox based on your workflow or project status. Let’s say you have a sales-based business. You could have folders for queries, payments, and customer support. For multistage projects, its might be more efficient to use folders such as “in progress,” “delegate,” and “defer.”
- By type of sender: Do the majority of your emails come from people outside your business? Manage emails based on what the senders need from you, such as vendors or sales prospects. Filing by sender helps you complete similar tasks in batches, so you don’t lose time and focus by switching gears.
Whatever system you choose, keep it simple. Try not to get so preoccupied with creating folders that you forget to limit how much time you spend in your inbox.
2. Unsubscribe From Email Lists
One of the best ways to improve email productivity is to stop sharing your address with every blog and business on the internet. You’re probably subscribed to a host of email lists, even though you don’t read the emails they send. And the moment you clear out your inbox, subscriptions fill it up again.
It’s common to sign up for subscriptions when the website offers an incentive, such as a coupon or industry report. But a few days later, you may barely recall the company’s name. Unsubscribe from unnecessary email lists as soon as you get the information you want. You can always re-subscribe later to take advantage of another offer.
3. Set Up Filters to Boost Email Productivity
Set up custom filters to automatically send email content to the right folders. That way, it’s harder to use email as an excuse to procrastinate. When you have a fairly predictable workflow, it’s easy to use keywords to sort email and find relevant topics. Try to choose keywords that only relate to one folder, such as project names, vendors, clients, or tasks.
By filtering most incoming emails in advance, you can spend less time sorting and dive into your to-do list each morning. A few stray emails could end up in the wrong folder, but this rarely hurts your productivity. Once you get in the habit of prioritizing emails, you get better at hitting daily work goals. This frees up time to review unsorted or incorrectly sorted messages all at once and prepare your schedule for the next day.
4. How to Do Email Marketing More Productively
Every business owner faces the ongoing challenge of attracting more customers. Maybe you have ambitious plans to beef up your social media presence, start a consistent blogging schedule, build your own email list, or write proposals and pitch clients. But how do you squeeze a marketing plan into an already jam-packed schedule? Learn how to do email marketing on autopilot with a customer relationship management (CRM) program.
Email automation lets you create templates for common customer interactions and personalize your email timetable to fit each person’s needs. Customers want different things at different times. And they expect timely communication from your business. Instead of being chained to your inbox, develop a series of emails to help customers discover more about your business as the need arises.
CRMs track a variety of stats to refine your email marketing campaigns, including demographics and customer activity on your website. Imagine a potential customer who visits your blog, reads a few posts, and eventually subscribes. You can send an automatic welcome email and then follow up with content related to topics the person read on your site. Eventually, you’re ready to offer promotions based on the subscriber’s interests.
Email marketing can be time-consuming, which is why automation is a smart way to reach more customers. Integrate your CRM with other business management tools, such as Quickbooks Enterprise, to bring more insight to daily operations.
5. Use Apps to Manage Emails
There are other tools that make it easier to tackle your email. Check out these email management apps to tidy up your inbox.
- SaneBox: This low-cost app works with any email client and studies your behaviour to understand which messages are high- or low-priority. SaneBox provides a daily digest of messages you received while banishing distracting emails to secondary folders. The app also unsubscribes you from emails you never read and offers features such as reminders and automatic attachments.
- Sortd: This free Gmail app turns your inbox into an intuitive task list. The drag-and-drop model lets you create categories and get a visual layout of your weekly schedule. Add notes, set up priority lists, and basically transform a mountain of clutter into an organized workflow.
- Shift: Are you constantly jumping between different email accounts? Shift is a free consolidation tool that provides an easy way to see all messages at once. The powerful search features and wide integration with productivity apps makes Shift a great choice for small businesses.
- Unroll.me: Unsubscribe from email lists en masse with this free app. Unroll.me combines your subscriptions into a neat list, so you can quickly go through and check off unwanted providers.
Your time and knowledge are your most valuable assets as an entrepreneur. Too much focus on email takes your concentration away from tasks where your expertise is more useful.
Schedule fixed periods of time to manage emails each day, and avoid the urge to browse any longer than necessary. Before you know it, you can have your email inbox working like a well-oiled machine.
Learn more about staying productive while working remotely.
Take advantage of productivity tools that help you streamline how you work. QuickBooks Time helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage their time no matter where they are working. Try it free today!