Are you tardy in your responses to incoming email? Do you feel overwhelmed with too many emails? When it comes to your business email communications lack of organization may cause a perception of anemic customer service. Not good.
Proper handling of your business email activities if you really think about it is a competitive skill. A skill that will most certainly win over customers who are hungry for attentive and responsive customer service.
I understand how overwhelming it can be. I get hundreds of email every single day! What I do is make a point of keeping up and doing a few things consistently so that I can reply on a timely basis. By taking this approach things don’t get backed up — which can then very easily become overwhelming.
There is an expectation of a speedy reply with email. (I’m sure you’ve even caught yourself wanting fast responses, right?) Not being efficient and speedy makes it appear that those who took the time to email you are not your priority.
What are we to do? Let’s get organized!
A big part of keeping your inbox and your email organized is discipline. Yep, good ole’ fashioned discipline! You need to have a system that you consistently put into practice! Every. Day.
Upon checking your email, there are several tasks you can put into place to keep ahead of the increased traffic of bits and bytes finding their way to your inbox.
Your Easy Email Organization System
- Put your DELETE button to work! If you do not recognize the sender, look at the SUBJECT: field. Are there funny characters, alpha-numeric gibberish or it just doesn’t make sense? Delete! Don’t fall for tricky SUBJECT: fields that say any number of enticing comments only someone you know would or do business with would say.
You should be pretty good at identifying spam by now. Delete the ones who underestimate your intelligence by thinking their email will be something you would take seriously. If you don’t know the sender and the SUBJECT: field looks off, send them on their way to the trash!
- Once you go through all your new email and follow Step #1 above, you are now ready to determine what to do with the emails that are left. Do you have several email from the same person? How about email from companies who email you quite regularly? Are there some email that are for personal business and others that are more serious and therefore, you probably need to keep a copy on hand?
This is where filters come into play. Filters, or Rules as they are called in Outlook, are what allow you to organize your email on the download (and Send too). Yes, as you download your email it can go into email folders setup for specific topics or contacts! Right off the bat you are more organized!
Set up filters to have email from some of your business partners go directly into their own folder. Client folders, supplier folders — the sky is the limit!
Organize your email to go into their own folders on the download and when you send. By using filters your inbox will have less email that you requested or were expecting. This leaves only the questionable email for you to review. Filters only need be setup once and they are in place until you delete them.
- Another use for your filters? As if filters are not already sounding like the best thing since sliced bread, you can use them to send certain email right to to spam bypassing your inbox all together! You know, the emails for certain enhancement products and adult sites – right to trash. Filters can be configured to find certain adult or offensive terms when listed in the SUBJECT: or BODY of an email message and send them right to spam on the download!
- Back to your inbox… We now have filters in place that organize your email on the download. All the email you requested and or are expecting, is in their appropriate folders for you to read at your convenience. Now your inbox should only have the orphan email with nowhere to go. After following the suggestions in #1 above, begin to review your email. If you run into an email that is from a new mailing list you’ve subscribed to and plan on getting regular email from, stop right there and make a folder and filter to accommodate these future email.
Set up a filter to look for something specific to that email (usually email address works best) and moving forward, on the download, those emails will go right into their own folder. Do this for any email topic or contact you plan to receive email from on a regular basis.
- Read and delete. Read your email as time permits and then delete any email that doesn’t have content worth keeping for future reference. Then, empty your trash daily. Loads of email files use a ton of your system’s resources. Not keeping copies of email you really will never need in the future helps remove the clutter and drain on system resources.
- When reading your email you can prioritize when you want to address them. Many email programs allow you to label email by color when viewing a particular folder. For example you could have labels that at a glance tell you how you have prioritized your tasks. Say, red for urgent, blue for later, yellow for maybe. By opening that specific email box you know, at a glance, which email you have set to address right away and which you can get to as time permits.
- Empty your trash daily but before emptying your trash, you want to be sure to take a quick look-see just in case emails landed there in error. This happens all the time! A quick once-over before deleting your trash will ensure legitimate email you do want to read doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
- Create a folder called Follow-Up, Interesting or To Do. This is where you will file some of the email from your inbox that peaked your interest. These are emails that you would like to review in more detail but just don’t have the time right now. Then, when time permits you can go to that folder and check into the emails worth keeping. Once you review them, though, either send them to another folder for keeps or send them to trash.
- To avoid email backup, be sure your inbox is cleared each day. Move email to trash, a specific folder or your “To Do” folder, and then empty the trash. If email is older than 90 days in your “To Do” folder – send them off to trash as most likely the information or offer is no longer current. By doing so each day, you keep your inbox clear and your email much more organized.
- What about all these folders? Have as many folders as you need to be organized and call them whatever will intuitively work for you with a glance. This system is different and unique to each and every user – make sure you use terms and a system that works for you.
Now You’ve Got an Email Organization Plan!
The above tips when practiced daily will make the world of difference in keeping your inbox organized and clutter free. Try to find a system or schedule that works for you! This will allow you to be more efficient and detail oriented. Anything you can do to improve in this area will be very important to how contacts will perceive what doing business with you is like.
Just a bit of discipline is all it takes to be on the road to less time spent dealing with email which frees you up to do other important things… like responding to email.