How much of your day do you think is eaten up by email?
For a technology that supposedly increases productivity and connectivity, it’s stunning just how much time managing our emails can take. Yes, it’s an extraordinarily useful business tool, but between sending, reading, organizing, and planning out emails, you can easily lose cumulative hours of productivity in a day.
There are a number of things that you do to optimize your email use, helping to maximize your productivity and make your business day go just a little bit more smoothly. Here are some tips:
1. Don’t Let Emails Disrupt Your Workflow
Who doesn’t love being in “the zone” at work? When you’re completely absorbed by what you’re doing so your productivity is sky high? You know that feeling, when you’re working effectively and you know that you’re going to be able to get the task done in… Oh wait, just got an email. Oh, it’s from Phil. Is it important? Nah, it’s not important. I’ll just send a quick message saying I’ll get back to him in an hour or so. And… sent. Ok, now, where was as I? Oh yeah, I was in the zone. I’m no longer in the zone. Nuts.
Do these events seem familiar? Nothing can break up a productivity streak like answering an email. The best way to keep this from happening is to set aside periods of the day when your email alerts are simply turned off. By building blocks of time into your schedule where there are no email or phone interruptions, you can greatly increase your productivity and focus.
If you’re worried about missing something important, leave your email management in the hands of your assistant or receptionist. If you don’t have an assistant or receptionist, why not? It couldn’t be easier or more affordable in today’s virtual world. A virtual assistant or virtual receptionist can handle anything urgent that arrives in your email, interrupting you only if the situation warrants it. A virtual assistant can handle all of the responsibilities that a dedicated secretary could handle for a fraction of the cost. By not letting emails disrupt your workflow, you’ll be maximizing your productivity and reducing your stress level.
2. Limit The Time You Spend On Email
Email is absolutely a very important part of your job but, as we’ve outlined, it can easily eat up vast chunks of your day. Not only should you schedule periods of time when you don’t respond to email, you should also set periods where that’s all you do.
Get “in the zone” of responding to email, just like you can with any other kinds of work by dedicating uninterrupted time blocks for it. Book a half-hour for email first thing in the morning, fifteen minutes after lunch, and a half-hour at the end of the day, or any other arrangement that fits your schedule.
You can greatly increase your email productivity if you already know which emails are demanding your attention and which you can safely ignore. This is why using a virtual assistant can be so helpful. They can go through your emails as they come in, prepping your inbox so it’s ready for your block of email time.
3. Get Your Inbox Organized
Have you ever received an important email that you can’t seem to find a week later? If you aren’t using an organizational system for your inbox, necessary emails can easily get lost in the shuffle or might even be deleted accidently.
Thankfully, most email programs come with a variety of organizational tools designed to label and categorize your email. You can mark email as important, very important, not at all important, or just spam. You can create subfolders to organize email according to topics, projects, or specific contacts. It can take a while to set up the system, but once it’s in place, it can save you a tremendous amount of time and frustration as every email will be exactly where you can find it.
If you can’t find the time to take on this kind of organizational task, a virtual assistant can take care of it for you. This is another instance when hiring an experienced virtual assistant is well worth the investment. Simply tell your VA how you would like your emails to be sorted with the various categories you want, and they’ll do it for you! After they’re done, you can give them notes to refine the system. You’ll never have to worry about misplacing another email again!
4. Unsubscribe from Spam
Nothing clutters up an inbox like spam. I don’t even mean junk mail or email scams. I’m talking about “legitimate” marketing emails from Amazon, a website you once visited, Facebook, LinkedIn, the list goes on forever. There’s an easy, if time consuming way, of minimizing all the clutter: Unsubscribe!
The majority of these marketing emails usually have a small link at the very bottom that reads: “Unsubscribe from this Email List”. Once you click the link, you’ll usually be taken to a web page asking you to confirm the unsubscription request. Once you’ve completed that step, you won’t have to worry about getting any marketing emails from that company again.
One important word of warning though; there are many email scams that attempt to trick you into revealing your personal information by sending out fake emails that are supposedly from many of these same companies. If you click “Unsubscribe” on one of these fakes, you might end up on a malicious website. Always confirm the website address of the “Unsubscribe” link before you click on it. It hould read, “https://www.linkedin.com/”, not a random Russian website.
If you’re concerned that you might accidently click on the wrong link, a professional virtual assistant is trained to know exactly what links you need to watch out for. You could save yourself a lot of time by hiring a VA to go through your email to unsubscribe or block any marketing or spam emails that you no longer want to receive. This will result in a much tidier inbox and less time wasted deleting worthless emails.
5. Use Email Template Responses
How often do you find yourself writing or answering emails with the exact same response. It might be an introductory letter, or a new client onboarding letter, information about next steps in your business process, etc. Every time you respond to one of these messages, it takes time to type everything out. You can save yourself a lot of trouble by simply creating email templates for your most common responses.
Instead of having to type out your message, you can simply pick from a selection of pre-written responses. You just need to write them once, and then they’ll always be on file. You can then personalize these templates with a signature, so it doesn’t seem like you’re simply sending out a form letter.
As an experienced virtual assistant, and someone who has worked in the heart of many high-pressure corporations, I know exactly how to help entrepreneurs manage their busy schedules. One of the best ways to optimize your time is to outsource your email management. I can check through your incoming mail, respond to non-priority messages, discard junk mail, and create alerts for high priority mail. If something important comes in while you’re working, I can quickly give you a heads up. If you’d like to discuss more ways that a virtual assistant can help streamline your business and simplify your life, please send me a message. I look forward to helping you grow your business!