8 Simple Tips to Manage Emails and Clean Out Your Inbox

Empty Inbox

Do you have an overflowing email inbox that’s almost out of control?

Or have you ever spent hours going through your emails, and felt immense satisfaction upon reaching inbox zero. But then, within a short time, the messages piled up again and you were back to square one?

Frustrating, isn’t it?

I understand. I’ve been there.

Organising your email inbox can be a real challenge. And especially if you run your own small business, energy sapping and a real time suck.

So how can you manage your emails on a daily basis to clean out your inbox – and keep it that way?

Here are some tips and tricks for achieving inbox zero. Permanently.

1) Act on emails immediately

Because a clogged up inbox can be so overwhelming, there’s a risk of missing the really important messages.  So never let them just sit in your inbox. Read each incoming email once, then decide immediately what to do with it.

Chose from these five options: Reply, Action, Read, File, Delete.

  • Reply – If the email just needs a quick answer, that will only take a couple of minutes, reply straight away.
  • Action – If the email is a little more involved (perhaps you need to look up some information first, or it’s part of a project) move it into an action file. You can name the file anything you like – Action, To Do, Today etc. It also makes it easier to see what’s urgent or important.
  • Read – Move emails that are interesting or informative into a reading file. And you can then go back to them when you have the time.
  • File – Some emails may just contain information that you need to keep for reference. Simply file or archive them.
  • Delete – Any junk, spam or irrelevant messages – delete immediately.

2) Filters and labels

If you subscribe to any regular newsletters, set up a label and filter for them. (Your reading file perhaps?) That way, instead of filling up your inbox, they will automatically get sent to a dedicated file. And will be available whenever you want them.

It goes without saying, unsubscribe from any newsletters that are uninteresting, unhelpful or that you never read.

3) Don’t multitask your inbox

One reason why your inbox can get so full, is that it’s often used for multiple purposes. It may serve as your to do list, calendar and place to store bits and pieces of information. But the problem is you probably find yourself constantly scrolling up and down looking for everything. Not only is it time consuming, but also easy to forget things as they get lost among several hundred emails.

So be strict with your inbox. Only use it as a destination for new messages. Because multitasking it doesn’t work effectively.

Here are some easy solutions you can try:

  • Invitations – Turn them into events on your calendar.
  • To do emails – Make them into tasks on your to do list. If you use gmail, you can also give them date, so they will be visible on your calendar.
  • Information and reference – Simply create a separate information file and store those emails there.

4) What to do when you’re waiting for replies

If you have emails you are waiting for a reply on, set up a file called ‘To Reply’ (or whatever name works best for you). And move those pending emails there.

You can either check through that file every so often, to see if you need to chase anything up. Or, set up a reminder to yourself. Alternatively, you can use this great solution I’m going to tell you about below.

5) Followupthen

I recently discovered a great email reminder service called followupthen. It’s so useful,  easy to use – and free. It’s the secret ingredient that helped me get to inbox zero – and stay there.

You simply chose when you want to be reminded about a particular email. It could be several hours, days, weeks or even months. Then file or archive that email. And it will return to your inbox exactly when you want it.

You can use it in many different ways. As a reminder to chase up a reply to an email or act on a task. To respond to a message at a specific time and remember events.

Another great feature is  that because it works via email, you can use it across all your devices. Great if you check emails both on a desktop and as well as via your mobile when on the go.

6) Use a timer

It can be really disheartening to spend hours wading through your inbox. So do it in short bursts, between more creative and productive activities. Set a timer for 15, 20 or 30 minutes. Then work through as many emails as possible within that set time limit.

7) Don’t let emails be a constant distraction

Schedule several sessions throughout the day to check and deal with your emails. Depending on how many you receive, you might need to do this every couple of hours. But you might find once or twice a day is also enough.

Then when you are done, close your inbox, switch off alerts so that you can focus on other things.

8) Use dead time to keep on top of your emails

Standing in a queue at the supermarket. Waiting for a bus. Hanging on the phone, and forced to listen to annoying music for ten minutes while waiting to be put through to someone. Basically, any time you have to wait around and can’t do much else. These are great opportunities to quickly go through your emails and keep on top of things.

I hope these tip will help make it easier for you to manage your emails and clean out your inbox.

Take control of your inbox, instead of letting it overwhelm you. And have more time to be creative and do the things that matter.

Do you have any other tips for managing emails? Please share them in the comments below.

[image: Flickr creative commons via Bryan Costin ]

The Most Essential Thing Your Business Needs To Grow Online

Quotes about life

You have gorgeous products. Your online sales are growing. And so is your brand. You may be writing some witty blog posts that are getting liked and shared. But if you don’t have this one thing, your online business is on shaky ground. And you could be putting everything at risk.

That one thing you must have is your own self-hosted website.

But why is it so important?

You can sell your products through various online marketplaces. And you can grow your brand and audience through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. So what is the point of going to the trouble of setting up your own website?

The answer is: because without it, your online business isn’t yours.

The problem with all those sites is that you don’t own them. And you never know when something might change, or those sites disappear.

The pros and cons of online marketplaces

When you’re getting started, online marketplaces can be a real help. They take care of the marketing and advertising. And you can just concentrate on designing, making and selling your products. They are also a great way to increase revenue streams to your business.

But if your only storefront is one on an online marketplace. Then it’s not really yours. It belongs to the marketplace. And if, for whatever reason, they decide to close down their website. Along with it goes your store.

Or lets take another scenario. What happens if they decide to substantially increase their commission rates? It could affect your whole business model and make it unsustainable.

Even the people who place orders can’t be considered your customers. Yes, they may buy your products. But usually, you won’t be allowed to add them to your mailing list. Or even to enclose promotional material together with your order to encourage repeat sales. If it directs them to a site other than the marketplace.

The dangers and benefits of social media

The same goes for social media. You’re at the mercy of another company’s terms and conditions.

Some small businesses use Facebook like a home page instead of having their own website. The advantages are that it can help you grow a large audience – and it’s free!

But what happens if they decide that your content has breached one of their terms of service? They can simply take down your site and you’ve lost everything.

And you never know when the algorithm might change. Just like Facebook did recently. So now your updates won’t be seen on the timelines of all of your fans each time you post something. Even if they chose to like your page.

That’s not too say social media isn’t useful. On the contrary. You should be using sites like Facebook and Twitter as part of your online marketing to help build your brand. They are great ways to help grow your audience and customer base. As well as to engage with your followers. And they can be really insightful for marketing research. But use them as vehicles to bring people back to your site.
Tweet: Your website is your home, and social media is the transport that brings people to visit you http://ctt.ec/bF74B+Your website is your home, and social media is the transport that brings people to visit you.

Free blog vs a self hosted blog

If you have your blog hosted on a free platform like Blogger or Tumblr, I’m sorry to tell you that also isn’t entirely safe. You don’t have complete control over it. There is always the danger that your site can be shut down and all your work erased.

Another thing to bear in mind is that a website hosted on a free platform is harder to rank on google than one that is self-hosted.

So build your brand on a platform your own. And make sure you have your own domain and a self-hosted website. It is an asset you can control as you wish, to build and grow.

By all means, use third-party sites to help grow your business. But aim to use it as a means to direct traffic back to your own site. And concentrate most of your energy on your own website.

Grow your own assets – rather than someone else’s. And retain your freedom.

[Image: Flickr Creative Commons via Eran Sandler]

Was Starting Your Business A Good Idea?

Don't give up, the beginning is always the hardest

It all started from a small seed of thought planted in your mind.

Perhaps someone saw your handmade products and said to you: ”You’re really talented. You could start a business selling those.”

And so the idea was born.

You started your handmade business or online shop. There was much enthusiasm from your family or friends. You even got a couple of orders.

And then reality hit! It was going to take more than your little fan club to run a business.  You needed customers.

So you tried dabbling with social media. You tweeted about your products and posted them on Facebook. But the results – to put it mildly – weren’t what you hoped for.

And then the creeping doubts began to appear, clouding your initial excitement. Was starting your business … a bad idea?

Does this sound familiar?  [Read more...]

How To Use Pinterest To Promote Your Creative Business Or Blog

How to use Pinterest to promote your creative business or blog

Pinterest is fun, isn’t it?

All those images of dream interiors, mouth-watering recipes, breathtaking beaches and stylish fashion.

It is possibly the most visually beautiful social media platform. And it’s certainly addictive. On average we spend just over 15 minutes on Pinterest per visit. (To compare, the average Facebook session is 12 minutes and on Twitter, about 3 minutes).

Because it is visual, Pinterest is a great medium for promoting your creative business or blog. And it can be an amazing source of traffic.

Content also tends to be more evergreen than on other social media channels. So you can get visitors to your website through pins you posted months, or even years ago.

So here are some tips to help you get the most out of your account and drive even more visitors and customers to your website.  [Read more...]

The Only Way To Begin Is Begin

The only way to begin is begin | Freedom To Make

Beginnings can be daunting.

Starting a new blog and writing your very first post.

Starting your own business.

You’re full of great ideas. But then when you sit down to actually do the work … the words don’t seem to come. And those great ideas? Well, you begin to question whether they were such good ideas after all. [Read more...]