The constant influx of new email to our already overloaded inboxes distracts us from income producing activities, drains our energy and increases our stress. Complicating the situation is the mix of emails we get every day: from clients asking important questions; from staff needing instructions; from information sources that help us do business; from spouses, parents and kids; from golf buddies; and from people we’ve never heard of trying to sell us something we don’t need.
Reclaim time lost to email by automating, organizing and opting out with these tips:
1. Use Rules and Folders to automatically organize received emails.
- Your office email system may allow you to create multiple email addresses that look like they come to or from you, but are instead redirected to the appropriate staff. You can also set up separate email accounts to use with your family, staff and top-level clients.
- If you use Microsoft Office Outlook, read up on using the Rules and Alerts Wizard to redirect emails based on conditions you specify. Rules can be based on the sender, the subject line or other criteria. Emails that meet those criteria go into a special folder. You can create exceptions to your rules, such as for emails marked with high importance.
- Rules can also be used to forward messages to other email accounts, again based on conditions you specify. For example, meeting request emails can be redirected to your assistant’s email. Emails from your golf buddies can go to your personal email account.
2. Block Time to read emails, rather than reading them when they arrive throughout the day.
- Reduce the temptation to look at each new email upon arrival by adjusting your Outlook settings so new emails do not play a sound or display on your desktop. You’ll find this under Tools/Options/Email Options/Advanced Email Options.
- Schedule specific times to review and sort emails, for example, when you start in the morning, after lunch and an hour before you leave for the day.
- When you need a large block of time for planning, consider setting your out of office message to state you’re focusing on a project, and offer an alternate contact or a time you will be back “online.”
3. Review and Act on emails you’ve saved for later reading or reference.
- Schedule time each week for “Reading and Resource Review.” Pick a time during your personal “off-peak” hours, and save those high energy times for income producing activities.
- Take action on each item in your folder: Save in a folder where you can find it later, or use the Print/Print to PDF function to save it to a desktop folder. Delete it. Forward it. Document ideas.
4. Be judicious in subscribing to new email services/newsletters/resources
- Be realistic about what you have the time to read. Focus on the sources that most consistently provide information you use most.
- Don’t sign up for more email just because it’s easy to do or the emails “might be interesting.”
5. Unsubscribe from resources you don’t read or need.
- Recognize what is not valuable, and get off that email list. Note that unsubscribe emails may not be effective if sent from an email that is different from the one you used to subscribe.
- Consider using your spam filter to block emails from sources that don’t seem to get your “opt out” message.
- If you think you may want to re-engage the source in the future, add the sender email to your Contacts.
Whether you’re using Microsoft Office Outlook or another email or CRM system, you’re likely not using all the built in tools to automate and organize your email. Schedule time now to review the online resources or attend a webcast to become an email power user – and regain the time you’re currently losing to inbox overload.
Chris Kirby, Senior Business Consultant, Securities America Financial Corporation. Chris is a business consultant for Securities America's Practice Management Group and serves as a consultant/coach for the firm’s Business Consulting Service, helping advisors manage a more efficient, profitable and satisfying practice.