Gmail inbox screen shot 
Try these 5 techniques to gain control of your email inbox.

One of the curses of running a small sign making business is that I fear I will never again have control of my email inbox. Between the smart phone, my laptop, ipad, etc. is it no wonder that I never get any peace? The constant stream of messages fling in, taking up space on my computer screen and cluttering my already full inbox is enough to drive me crazy, some days. Other days I take a deep breath and apply these methods to help me cope with the daily onslaught of emails:
  • Set specific times to check your email each day. When a telemarketer calls during dinner, how do you respond? If you hate being interrupted when you are in the middle of something, why do you let yourself be interrupted by an incoming email? Turn off the auto-check and sit down to your computer two to three times a day to review your email. Let people know that if they want to get in touch with you instantly, email isn’t the way to do it. Sure, it can be convenient, but it can also drive you crazy! When it is time to focus on your email, turn off your phone, shut the door to your office, and blast through the emails.
  • Train people to be relevant. As the boss of the company you likely get copied on lots of emails that perhaps you don’t need to be. While you may like knowing everything that is going on, many messages are not relevant and wind up being a waste of your time. When you are copied on a message that doesn’t concern you, respond with the word, “Relevant?” Employees will catch on to what is and isn’t of importance for you to read. For gmail users, here's a link to our post on the priority inbox.
  • Grab a pen and paper and make a response list. Run through your email list and make a note of which incoming emails require a response. Right what you need to do or whom you need to call for each email. File important reference info into appropriate folders, and delete emails you have already cataloged on your physical list. When your inbox is relatively clear go ahead and do your responding.
  • Send out delayed responses. If the email isn’t urgent, go ahead and type up an answer and then save it to be sent in a few days. This gets the email out of your inbox, but also gives you some time to breath in between responses. If you use Outlook you can do this under “Options” when composing the message; just select “do not deliver before” and you are all set.
  • Ignore the email. You read that right – ignore it. If it is truly important, you’ll hear about it again. If people don’t hear back from you via email, chances are they will email again, or call. If it is not important enough for them to call, it probably isn’t so important that you need to drop everything and read and respond.
While it may be difficult for you to put these practices into place, it can be done. (Trust me, I employ them on a daily basis.) To get started, pick just one or two techniques to put into practice. As you feel your stress level reduce, you’ll be more likely to try and put more of these practices into place.