5 ways to regain control of your inbox and time

Is your inbox under control?

It’s ok to answer no. It happens to all of us. Messages and alerts roll in and just as you respond to 1, 10 more flood in. It’s like trying to keep water out of a leaky boat. You get stuck in a cycle of sending and reading and just barely keep afloat. For some of us it gets to the point of no return. The number of unread messages gets so high we consider scraping that account all together and starting anew. But we can stop it from getting that bad!

For starters, recognize correspondence is admin work and is typically low-impact, and will consume you if you let it. 

Our ongoing battle with our inboxes usually leads to one of two outcomes:

  1.  We ignore it or push it off. This is when we can find ourselves in a compromising position of neglecting messages or taking too-long to respond which can lead to lost opportunities.
  2.  We get sucked into the black hole of our inboxes. We spend hours on low value activities and then get frustrated that we aren’t getting any of the important work done.

Fortunately, you can free yourself from a monstrous inbox by following these 5 tips:

1. Start by recognizing different priority levels and organize your messages accordingly. 

When you open your inbox the first thing you should do is scan through all your new messages and flag messages that are high priority. These are the messages that require an answer to proceed. This may mean following up on a meeting time or a question from an employee about a project. These types of messages require an answer or issues will not be resolved and progress cannot continue. Lower priory messages should still be answered, but can afford a slight delay if necessary.

2. Write concise messages-but don’t skip on any important details. Try to provide answers before questions need to be asked. 

When you answer an email, try to do it in a way that requires no additional message from the sender. Read their message and analyze it closely. What do they need from you exactly? If they’re trying to set up a meeting you must provide them with a time, date, and location. Tell them anything they need to bring or topics you plan on covering during the meeting so they have a clear idea of what they need to prepare. If they need your input on a project or have a question, make sure that you are covering every aspect of their questions and provide them with any additional information they might need. Think in declarative sentences. This will eliminate any unnecessary back-and-forth that responses. 

3. Don’t put off a response because you’re not ready to give an answer. 

Always answer your messages. Don’t put things off. This only prolongs your stress/worry and will prevent you from giving your full attention to your work. If you get a message you’re not ready to answer still respond. You can say  you’re not ready to answer at this time, but be sure to give them a specific time you’ll get back to them. This will give you time to think as well as force you to face the problem in a timely and efficient manner.

4. Prepare for your absences and time away. 

Everyone deserves a good work-life balance. You need to take time to recharge and take care of yourself, but that shouldn’t mean suffering for your future-self. Picture the last time you returned to the office from a vacation or day-off. I’m sure you were relaxed and refreshed at first, but as soon as you opened your computer you were hit with a bunch of messages. That alone is enough to un-do any relaxing you did. To avoid this make sure you plan ahead for the time you’ll be away or busy by setting automated responses or by giving people a generous heads-up on when you will and won’t be available so you can avoid pile-ups.  

5. Try out a “bookend” response system. 

Prevent burn-out and daily interruptions by “bookending” your inbox. Check once early in the day and again towards the end of the day. This way you will stay present and productive all through your day and give you a chance at the end of the day to catch anything you missed without interrupting your workday rhythm.  

If you’re ready to tame your beast of an inbox and other aspects of your business that may have gotten out of hand contact us to learn about our proven action-pan system. Our team is experienced in helping businesses get organized and on the path to success. 

If you are having trouble knowing exactly where your business should be going or what you need to make your journey successful, we can help!

Book a free 1-hour Breakthrough Consultation with us.

Erickson Business Coaching

Erickson Business Coaching, Inc. is a training and coaching company dedicated to helping skilled professionals build successful practices.

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