Email is one of the greatest tools to come with the internet age, but it’s also one of the biggest time sinks in business. Hours can be wasted every day sending, reading and sorting through email. Taking the time to design and implement strong email processes can make a big difference on your company’s productivity across the board.
==> The #1 Mistake: Make it Up As You Go
The biggest mistake you could make with handling email is to handle it in an ad hoc fashion. Instead of having a system to handle email, you simply respond to email however you feel is warranted on a case by case basis. Your employees do the same.
This is a terrible way to manage email; yet it’s the way the vast majority of people seem to manage their emails.
This is a sure recipe for wasted time, dropped balls and stress. Instead of running your inbox this way, consider some of the other methods illustrated here.
==> Segregate Your Email Addresses
Your company should have several emails that go to different people who specialize in responding to those kinds of emails. For example:
Media Inquiries: email@example.com
Investor Relations: IR@example.com
Customer Support: support@@example.com
HR & Employment: firstname.lastname@example.org
All other inquiries: email@example.com
==> The Zero Inbox Philosophy
Every time you get an email, process exactly what actions need to happen in order for that email to be “complete.” If it’s a resource, file it in a resource folder. If you’re waiting for someone before the action can be complete, file the inbox under a “waiting for” file.
Clear out your inbox every day. Figure out what actions need to be done to mark an email as finished, then either file the email or complete the action. This relieves a lot of psychological weight. Having an inbox with 500 emails is incredibly stressful, because subconsciously you know there are probably things you’re responsible for in there, but you don’t know what.
==> Use Email Templates
Over the course of doing business, you’ll find that the vast majority of emails you receive are going to be very similar. Perhaps 80% of the emails you respond to will be very similar to emails you’ve responded to in the past.
Design email templates for these kinds of inquiries. When you respond to someone, make sure you’re adding a personal touch, but utilize email templates to save time and energy.
==> Incorporate Other Tools
People use email for all kinds of things that email was never designed for. People use it as a file storage medium. People use it as an instant messenger. People use it as a brainstorming tool.
Instead of cluttering your mailbox with these different things, use different tools. Use Dropbox for file storage, use Skype for instant messaging and use Mindmeister for brainstorming. This can help decrease a lot of the noise that people experience in their email inbox.