How many emails do you have in your inbox?
So how many emails do you have sat unchecked in your inbox? I had a message from a lady yesterday who had 16555!!!! And yes, she told me this was not a typing error!! This is a frightening thought. If you have read the article The dangers of an overflowing inbox you will know that this could be costing her business a great deal of money from missed opportunities and disgruntled clients.
But if you find yourself in this situation, or something rather less extreme but still rather concerning, read on to find out what to do.
How to clear and control your email inbox
Firstly, if you have anything like the amount of undealt with emails as above, you are going to have to be ruthless. It takes time for this amount to build up so, in the law of averages, anyone who had anything you needed to respond to will have probably given up on you by now.
Block out a day to deal with them
To really sort out your inbox problem, you are going to have to put aside some time.
Block a day out in your diary and turn off everything apart from your emails. That means your phone, Facebook and anything else that is going to distract you.
The five-second rule
Sort your emails in reverse order and then be strict. Click on each one and give yourself no more than 5 seconds to decide whether to ditch it or deal with it. I don’t mean deal with it now. I mean that it is important enough to keep and deal with later. If you haven’t made the decision within 5 seconds, the decision has been made for you. Go ahead and hit delete.
Be strong here folks. It is the only way you are going to get through this with the minimum amount of pain.
Now based on the extreme example above of 16,555 emails, using this method would take a full 23 hours to complete and that is not allowing for any comfort breaks, food or drink breaks or your eyes giving up completely on what they are focusing on.
So in this scenario, I would simply go in and delete all but the last two months’ worth of mail (or even more than that if you get over 150 emails per day).
Hopefully by the end of this, and yes it will take time, you will have a slightly more manageable number to deal with so give yourself a pat on the back.
Block out more time
Yes, more time is needed. These emails didn’t all pop up at once overnight so don’t think they can all be dealt with instantly.
You now need to go back and once again in reverse order, deal with them. This does not mean reading them and saving them for later or putting them into a folder. You won’t ever get back to them. Deal with them or delete. Ruthless and simple once again. If you need to send a reply to someone, make it short and sweet. Try and keep it to a one-liner where possible.
If you have subscribed to newsletters and have articles you want to read, later on, my guess is that you won’t have time, so get rid of them and have a clear inbox to read new articles as they come in. If you really have to keep them, send them to Evernote or create a folder on your bookmarks bar and save each article in there.
How to keep future emails under control
Once you have completed the mammoth challenge, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back and give yourself a treat – I believe treats are incredibly important to reward ourselves having done a good job!
But how are you going to control your inbox in the future?
First of all, go visit Unroll Me. This is a neat bit of kit (and free) that lets you see how many sites, newsletters etc you have subscribed to. It can be quite scary! It will scan your inbox and then give you the option of choosing which subscriptions you want to keep and which you want to delete. You will probably find that you have signed up to numerous ones just to get a freebie or access to a site, so if the site no longer interests you, get rid of it.
As the site says:
With just one click, you can unsubscribe from the emails that you never want to see again. And for the subscriptions, you’d still like to receive? Add them to your Rollup! Instead of being bothered with newsletters and deals every 3 minutes, your subscriptions are organized into one daily email, sent to you at the time of your choosing.
Make sure you put all your non-work subscriptions into Rollup and have them delivered at a time when you are not normally working. I set mine for the evening when (hopefully) I have finished work and am on downtime.
Dealing with new emails
Remember how you dealt with all those old emails? That is exactly how you need to deal with new ones. You read, take action, and delete or save. No scrolling through to see which ones you want to read. Deal with and move on.
This does take practice, but I promise you, it is worth it when you get the hang of it.
If you really struggle, have just one folder titled ‘to deal with later’. Diarise once a week to go through this folder and anything that gets to one-month-old needs to be deleted. If you haven’t dealt with it by now, you never will.
Getting and keeping emails under control is an important daily process that will help you be more productive and help you make sure you don’t miss that all-important gem that you may have otherwise missed.
Recently, a member of the Absolutely Fabulous Business Women Facebook group asked me about email etiquette for her home based business. She asked if she could send her newsletter to contacts in general, past colleagues and friends in addition to targeting former clients and prospects.
Email etiquette is such an overlooked subject and so many female entrepreneurs fail to understand the implications of getting it wrong.
If you have a list of people that you want to contact but are unsure about email etiquette, here are a few tips for getting it right.
Email etiquette tips
Firstly, I would never recommend sending a newsletter to anyone who has not subscribed. If you are using mailing software such as Mailchimp, this is strictly forbidden and if recipients report that they did not subscribe, you may get blacklisted.
It is also bad manners to automatically assume that someone wants to receive this newsletter and inviting yourself into their inbox without seeking permission first. They may already have an overflowing inbox and your addition to this is likely to cause offence. It’s like walking into their home without knocking and sitting down in front of them with no introduction and starting up a conversation.
Plain rude! And likely to get you in to hot water legally ……..
Legal email requirements
Secondly, in the EU you need to be aware of legal restrictions in spending unsolicited email under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes
22.—(1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.
(2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.
(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where—
(a)that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;
(b)the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and
(c)the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.
(4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).
If you have a database of contacts, I would suggest contacting these people individually to let them know about your business and inviting them to subscribe to your future newsletters. They can then opt in out of choice keeping you in line with the law.
Also, if you have various types of contacts such as colleagues, friends, clients etc, they are unlikely to all be attracted to just one message. Friends would respond better if addressed in a different way to colleagues as would clients and prospects. It will take a little more work creating separate messages but should get you far better results.
Today I flagged up to a company that I had recommended quite a few people to them and a couple of these had sent emails to make bookings but had received no response. I was informed by the business owner that he did not have time to check his emails as he had an overflowing inbox and people should phone if they want to get in contact.
To say I was dumbfounded is to put it politely. I gently tried to point out how many opportunities he may be missing out on but the response was that his phone number was on his website, Facebook page and business cards so people should use that.
So my next question was why on earth bother putting on contact details of an email address if you have no intention of checking it.
I was hoping to be able to tell you that this is a rare occurrence with small businesses but unfortunately it is not. All too often I come across small businesses with an overflowing inbox that is having a detrimental effect on their business. I know of another business advisor who had been sent a number of clients to speak to. When I asked them why they had not been in contact, they again told me they had too many emails to trawl through so just picked out the most important looking ones.
Please do not let your emails get out of control and fall into this dangerous trap. You never know that an absolute golden nugget may be sat amongst them, hidden from view, and that you let slip by. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think people will make the effort to contact you in another format after a couple of failed attempts. There is plenty of competition out there folks and if your competitor can be bothered to check their emails, then quite frankly, they deserve the business.
The business owner in question took the attitude that if someone was serious about doing business with him, then they would use alternative avenues and make more effort to get in contact with him. My attitude is that if you are serious about building your business and gaining a good reputation, you will make the most of every opportunity to engage with potential clients and make it as easy as possible for them to get in contact with you. And if you give out an email address as a form of contact, people will expect a response if they send you a message.
If you don’t want an overflowing inbox and want to know how to get your emails under control and keep them that way so you don’t ever miss a potential client, drop me a comment below and I will send you an article on ‘How to keep your email inbox under control.’