I have to start this post by saying that I am definitely not an expert on Gmail and its many plugins, BUT I am somewhat obsessed with trying to streamline my business and work load as much as I can. I’ll be completely honest with you guys…I didn’t start my business so I could work all the time. I started my business because I desperately wanted a career that I not only loved, but would allow me a lifestyle where I could be flexible in how I spent my days and have time to share with the people that I love the most. So many small business owners I know are a slave to their inbox, and I really believe that you DON’T have to be. And, you don’t have to be a gmail genius either. Here are my super simple hacks for handling my inbox:
Immediately archive anything you don’t need to look at now but might need to look at later. I used to use folders to organize all my mail, but I’ve found that archiving works better for me because if I go looking for a message later, chances are I’m going to look for it using the search tool rather than dig through a folder.
Immediately delete anything that’s junk. Just do it!! Right away if possible. You can also unsubscribe to junk mail by using services like Unrollme.com
Use Send + Archive. This button will change your life! Once you send a response, your message will be automatically archived, so it’s out of your inbox and off of your plate until if and when the other person responds.
Use auto responders. I use these when I am on vacation and when I’m out for the weekend shooting a wedding…or otherwise out for more than a full day. I know others have auto responders set up to go out at all times, but I only use them like old school “out of office” reminders. Either way you do it, auto responders are great for managing expectations of those who email you by letting them know you aren’t able to, or aren’t going to respond right away for whatever reason. Managing expectations is a huge key to the way that I run my business, and it also leads me to my next point….
Set up office hours in your email signature. My office hours in my email signature are Mon – Fri from 9 AM to 4 PM. This sets the expectation that I am only working on messages, timelines, etc for clients during these times. Is that 100 percent the truth? Not always, but as a small business owner you really have to set boundaries and create time for work, otherwise it will start to bleed into all parts of your life and you won’t really have a life at all anymore. Setting office hours in your email signature helps manage client expectations, and managing expectations is so important to creating a good experience for them! Letting it be known that you have office hours ALSO gives you the opportunity to use my FAVORITE business motto, under promise, over deliver. If people think you are available 100 percent of the time, you don’t have the ability to really wow them by taking the time to meet with them after your office hours because that’s the only time that works best for them, etc.
Boomerang. Boomerang is HUGE for helping manage expectations! Sometimes I will be working through emails and someone emails me right then. I can respond immediately (and will do that in some cases) but in a lot of instances I really prefer there to be about an hour or so in between my responses so that people don’t get used to me replying super fast and come to expect that every time. Some of our mentoring friends have asked how we keep boundaries with our clients and Boomerang is a huge part of that! Boomerang is a plugin you can get for Gmail that you can use to schedule your emails to be sent the next hour, the next day, the next week, etc. So even if your time is limited and you have to answer messages outside of your “office hours” sometimes, people will still learn to expect that you only answer messages during those times and will be less likely to text you at midnight asking why you haven’t responded to the message they sent at 8pm.
You can also use Boomerang to “boomerang” your messages back to the front of your inbox at a certain scheduled time. This is great if you send lots of follow up emails or need to remember to reply on a certain date.
Canned emails. This is SUCH A TIMESAVER! If you aren’t doing canned emails, you need to do them immediately!! You basically use this gmail app to create templates for messages you frequently send out (inquries, image delivery, final payment due, etc) and then either send them as is, or quickly customize before sending out. This is the perfect way to share information that you send to everyone without having to literally type it out every single time OR copy and paste from a draft, which is what I did before Canned Emails.
Don’t read an email if you don’t plan to deal with it immediately. For me, seeing a all of the “unread” emails in my inbox lets me know that an action is required. If you read your emails and then don’t do anything about it, that’s inefficient because you opened it, read it, and then still have to go back later, open it again, read it again, and then take care of it. It’s so much more time efficient if you handle it ASAP. BUT, in the case that I DO read an email and don’t do anything about it, I immediately re-mark it as “unread” so that when I look at my inbox, I know exactly what I need to handle. Obviously, you can use colors, labels, etc to categorize the mail you need to handle, but I am all about keeping things simple and saving as much time as possible. Keeping things marked “unread” that are on my plate to work on is the best and EASIEST way for me to do this. If there’s an email that requires further action, I will actually use the STAR to remind me I have additional work outside of gmail before that can be completed.
That’s how I handle my inbox in a nutshell! If it seems super easy, that’s because it is. Like I mentioned before, I’m all about keeping things simple, so most of my systems are based on simplicity. Hope this post helps!! As always, if you have questions or if there’s something else you’d like to read about in a future post, reach out to me in the comments or email me!