My name is Sarah and I'm so glad you're here!
This blog is where you'll find all my best tips and tricks to organize, simplify, and streamline your business and life.
Inbox management just might be the bane of nearly every business owner’s existence at one time or another.
You know it’s important, because it’s usually how people get in touch with you, but sometimes it feels like you’re spending hours or even days in your inbox from week to week.
The bad news is that’s not completely inaccurate… but the good news is, it doesn’t have to stay that way!
Did you know that the average worker in the United States spends 4.1 hours in their inbox a day? 😱 That’s, quite literally, half of a traditional work day. Half!
The time in your inbox might not be quite this high, but it can certainly seem like it. You may dream of inbox zero, feeling like it’s a mythical unicorn that doesn’t actually exist. Or you might get to inbox zero after hours of work and effort that leave you questioning if that goal is realistic or even worth it.
My friends, it is. I promise.
You can reach inbox zero every single week (or nearly every single day if you want!), and you can do it in only 30 minutes a day.
Don’t believe me? Read on!
When it comes to inbox management, there are a lot of different factors to consider, but when it comes down to it, good inbox management isn’t that different from good management of anything else — it’s all about how you approach it.
You can approach your inbox in a lackluster, unplanned way and very easily wind up spending half of your work day dealing with it. Or you can approach it with a plan and be in and out in 30 minutes a day on the regular.
No matter who you are, opening up your inbox in the morning or after a weekend can be a little overwhelming when you see 20 or maybe even 200 unread emails sitting there.
Your brain probably immediately starts freaking out and imagining the amount of time it’s going to take to read through all of these things and respond to them, to the point that you might even just close out of your inbox and avoid it.
The key to getting through your inbox quickly and keeping the overwhelm at bay? The rapid process.
Even if you have 100+ emails sitting in your inbox, they’re going to fall into different categories and it’s likely that no more than 25% of them are legitimately important and need to be read and responded to right away. Which is why you rapid process.
Instead of going through and opening up each individual email, reading over it, taking the time to respond right away, etc… use the sender or subject line to label the email without looking at the content. For emails you need a bit more info on, open them up and do a quick scan, then label.
Do this until everything in your inbox has been reviewed and labeled and archive, move, or delete anything that doesn’t need immediate attention or doesn’t need to stay in your inbox.
You’ll still have emails sitting in your inbox that you need to deal with, but at this point, the number will be much more manageable and far less overwhelming than it was just a few minutes ago.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — batch tasking is a business owner’s BFF and this is especially true when it comes to your inbox.
Even if you’re not actually spending 4.1 hours in your inbox every day, if you’re checking it more than a couple of times throughout the work day, it’s definitely going to feel like you’re spending more time in it than necessary.
When you’re doing anything — writing blog posts, doing client work, or responding to emails — you eventually get into a groove. It takes some time, but things start flowing and before you know it, boom, boom, boom! You’re knocking things out left and right.
Email responses in particular benefit batch tasking because, in addition to your brain just being in a state of “flow” with responding to emails in general, if you’re responding to similar types of things or answering the same questions over and over again, you start having to think less and less about what you’ll say.
Beyond that, there’s this phenomenon known as task switching. You know that state of flow I was talking about earlier? Research shows that when you task switch — like when you notice a new email popped into your inbox so you abandon your in-progress client work to check and respond to it — it takes 25 minutes for you to get back into that state of flow and major productivity again.
I batch my responses twice a day — at the beginning and end of the work day. Every so often I’ll pop into my inbox in the middle of the day, right before or after my lunch break, but not all the time. If it falls outside those hours, I don’t check my email unless it’s for a specific purpose, but even then, I hold all responses for my batch times later that day or the next day.
In the same way you batch your responses, batch your newsletter reading.
When you rapid process your inbox, file your newsletters away into a folder so they’re out of your inbox and not distracting your from the important emails that require immediate response or action.
Then choose a schedule — be it once a day or once a week that you dedicate to reading the newsletters from that day or week.
It will help you get through that content faster when you’re just focused on reading and retaining the information (whether you’re taking notes, pulling favorite quotes, or just reading and filing it away), rather than shifting back and forth between reading a newsletter and responding to a client email and then doing something else and then reading another newsletter.
Something that can help make that rapid process even faster? Auto-label your frequent emails.
Don’t set up a rule that causes them to skip the inbox (that’s a major no-no), but if you get certain newsletters on a frequent basis or know that whenever you get an email from a specific person, it will be for a specific purpose, go ahead and set up a rule to automatically label them.
You’ll still see it pop into your inbox, which will help your brain acknowledge that it’s there and will need to be dealt with at some point, but it’s one less thing to label and process!
If I had to give one tip when it came to speeding up time in your inbox, it would be to use canned responses.
Canned emails, canned responses, email templates, whatever you want to call them — they will save you time in your inbox like nobody’s business. So take a few hours one day, write out responses to your frequently asked questions, emails in your client workflow, and more, and start using them on the regular when you’re working on batching those responses.
I’m about to drop a truth-bomb on y’all — you don’t have to reply to every email that comes into your inbox. 🤯
Possibly mind blowing, but it’s absolutely true. In the same way that not every email needs to be read or dealt with immediately, not every email has to be responded to… even some emails from clients or colleagues.
Think about it this way — if you responded to every single email that came into your inbox and every single other business owner responses to every single email that came into their inbox, it would be like the digital version of “You hang up! No, you hang up!” And let’s be real — ain’t nobody got time for that.
So respond to what’s necessary and if the last email you got doesn’t necessitate a response? Just say no.
Beyond using canned emails, this just may be the Golden Rule of effective inbox management — the 3-2-1 rule.
Whenever possible keep your responses to three sentences or less, respond in two minutes or less, and only touch it one time.
Obviously, this is not going to apply to every single email that crosses your inbox, but if you apply this rule as much as possible, I can guarantee the time you spend in your inbox will decrease dramatically.
And there you have it, friends! Put these seven tricks (or even just a couple of them) into practice, and you’ll be on your way to inbox zero in 30 minutes a day in no time!