I take email very seriously. It's definitely the most influential form of communication right now and I think it's something that should be managed in a professional way. But it's overwhelming. Unlike phones (calls, text messages, etc.), everyone can get in contact with you. Getting an email address is super easy if you know particular cadences and it's generally pretty simple to find or ask for. Someone might think twice before shooting a text or calling, but emails know no boundaries. In between junk mail and retail emails, though, could be that one super important email that shouldn't be missed!
Sometimes I feel like I'm in the minority for thinking that keeping up with email is so important, but I swear it is a make-it-or-break-it for advancing your career. Seriously.
Now, the real trick is that there is no one real trick. You just have to find out what works for you. Here are my tips and tricks for how I manage my own inbox(es).
ONE // My inbox is my temple.
A little play on the whole, "my body is my temple" phrase. But the meaning remains the same: I only want emails that are useful to show up in my inbox. This means that I unsubscribe from things like a madwoman. If I get an email I don't want to see more of (e.g. a retail email or an email from a PR agency), I unsubscribe by clicking the button at the bottom. I do this as they come in, even if I'm on my iPhone. Taking fifteen seconds once spares me the annoyance of receiving unwanted mail over and over again in the future. Want to unsubscribe from a lot of junk at once? Use Unroll.me– you'll be surprised just how many email lists you're registered for... it's crazy! One time someone signed me up for 440 email subscriptions (love you, too) and I think they thought it was going to be some huge deal, but it actually took me about five minutes to unsubscribe from everything using Unroll.me. Probably took them longer to enter my email address at all those websites... ha.
TWO // Divide and conquer.
I actually have a bunch of email accounts. A few gmail accounts and one AOL account (#judge.). I use them for different purposes. All of my gmail accounts forward into my primary account and I keep that open on my browser at all times and have that primary account hooked up to my phone too. My AOL account is connected to the mail app on my phone as well as the Mail application on my computer. AOL is primarily for blog comment notifications, retail emails that I actually want, and flash sale sites. Everything else is funneled in through one of my gmail accounts.
THREE // Read everything.
I read every email as it comes in. I set my push notifications for every hour though so if I'm out and about I don't get interrupted. I can push for my mail to refresh if I'm in an elevator or waiting for someone. Reading everything as it comes in helps me know if something important has come up. A blog comment saying that there's an issue with a post, a time sensitive email request, or something of that nature. It also ensures that I'm always at inbox zero because...
FOUR // Flag important emails.
So this is where my email tackling strategy really comes into play. I read everything so I never have a nagging red notification on my phone or some insane number of emails in my inbox. But how do I know what emails need a response?! I flag the emails by "starring" it in gmail. For me, the starred emails become my "to-do" list. (It's rare, but if I get an email to my AOL account that needs a response, I forward it to my gmail.) Depending on the content of the email I star, it could stay starred for two weeks or two hours. I might star an email with my flight check-in information that's coming up in two weeks or I could star an email that I need to respond to that day.
FIVE // Dedicate time.
Again, I think emails are important. I dedicate time every day (except for the weekends) to go through my starred emails to send off responses. Depending on the day, I can spend a lot of time just emailing. But I typically start losing my mind after five hours so I respond to the most important emails first to ensure they get answered. Less time sensitive emails get responded to on a slower day. For me, it's like brushing my teeth. I have to do it every day to maintain a "healthy" inbox.
You might find that responding to emails for twenty minutes every morning may help keep it in check or taking time every Monday morning with your favorite soundtrack. Just depends on your email load and time sensitivity of the emails.
SIX // Set goals.
Again, this is personal. I have a personal goal to respond to every email, whether it's someone just saying they found my blog and love it or will be in town and want to get coffee. It's a priority to me that I will stand by until it's feasibly not possible. For now, it works. I also try to respond within 72 hours (i.e. an email only stays starred for three days max, except for Saturday/Sunday), but absolutely within seven days. Goals help me stay on top of things. Additionally, for people I correspond with frequently, they know what to expect. That is, they know if it's a non-sensitive email, they can expect a response within three days... and if they don't hear from me in a week, they can follow up in case it got lost!
SEVEN // Label.
Because I have a few email accounts, I set up labels in gmail to help me visualize what's coming in. Honestly, this used to help me a lot more than it does now... but I still label things anyway. I label incoming mail from "close friends" because I prioritize responses to those and I label emails after I read/respond that I want to be able to reference later.
I really am crazy about my email, but it helps me stay organized and definitely helps me run my blog/life. I never miss a brunch invite with friends (anyone else do chains for coordinating?!), I never miss an opportunity, and I can make sure I'm connecting with readers which is definitely important to me.
EIGHT // Start fresh on Monday morning.
I hate feeling overwhelmed on Monday mornings, so I spend a solid chunk of time on Friday trying my best to get through emails. That way, when I start on Monday, it's mostly just emails I received over the weekend. One funny thing that happens for me in particular is that I get different "waves" of emails. It's a natural phenomenon (haha), but it does help me because the waves come at different times. Every Sunday night, I get floods of emails from readers. Most reader emails come in during the weekend, but Sunday night it's crazy. Then Monday, it's a huge wave of "follow-ups" and responses to emails I sent out on Friday. And then Wednesday is a lot of "opportunity" emails. It's very aligned with business/student schedules... and I love it because it's like clockwork! Also breaks things up for me as I move through the week.
*Extra Tip | A weird thing I adopted is to not respond to emails from my iPhone. 99.9% of the time, a response can wait. Typos always happen from phone and it's too easy to misread something, not check my calendar properly and send out wrong information, or forget to reply to the whole thread. If I'm in a time crunch, I'll draft emails, but I don't respond. It also makes me feel a tiny bit disconnected, in a good way, when I'm away from my desk. To help with this, I use the mail app on my iPhone, but it's connected to my primary gmail account which isn't my College Prepster email. So I can read the emails, but to respond, I have to sign into my gmail app which isn't what I normally use. I can do it if I absolutely must, but it takes enough effort to prevent me from emailing all the time on the go.