Every small business owner will tell you that it’s all too easy to get lost in the details of daily operations. This is such a pervasive problem that I launched Creative PlanHer to solve it. For the past 2 years, I have handled the logistics and operational functions for several small business owners so they can focus on doing more of what they love. In all that time, without fail, I have seen two small changes make big differences for business owners—conquering their calendar (which I wrote about earlier this month) and taking back their inbox.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, most employees spend about 28% of the workweek reading and answering emails. For small business owners, this number is likely much higher. The first step in taking back your email inbox is believing that you can. Say it with me, “I am in charge of my email, my email is not in charge of me.”
Here’s how to take back your inbox in five easy steps
Stop checking your email first thing in the morning. Instead, start your day by focusing on your priorities before responding to the priorities of others.
Turn off any email notification sounds and visuals. This will limit how much you get sidetracked by emails arriving in your inbox and will allow you to be intentional about when you check your emails.
Log out of your email program when you are not actively checking or replying to emails. If you are someone who checks their email reflexively, this will help break that habit.
Decide on a reasonable number of times per day and the specific times of the day that you will check your inbox.
Once you’ve settled on the timing in step #4, add your office hours to your email signature and consider creating an auto-response that sets expectations of senders about your response time.
Like the idea of taking back your inbox but need to sleep on it? Consider these wise words from Maura Thomas, author of The Happy Inbox, who was profiled in this Washington Post article about getting your inbox under control.
Maura Thomas says the first thing many of her clients do when they open their eyes in the morning is check their email. And the last thing they do before they go to bed at night is, you guessed it, refresh that inbox. “It’s super unhealthy,” she says—sweet dreams are not made of subject lines and BCCs.
If you are ready to completely let go of managing your inbox, it may be time to outsource this burden to a virtual assistant. Book a call today to learn more about how Creative PlanHer may be able to support you.