Work Smarter: You don’t need to put in longer hours to get more done. This is part of our series to help you accomplish your most important daily tasks, in less time.

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Email is an essential communication tool for most. While having access to email at all times is incredibly convenient, it can also be a big hindrance on productivity. And if you’re dealing with an unruly inbox, this is likely adding unnecessary clutter.

So how can you tackle your inbox in under 15 minutes a day so you can spend more time on your business? 

 

1. Unsubscribe from unworthy causes

The first step is the most obvious, but so many people don’t do it. It’s time to be ruthless with your email subscriptions. Remove yourself from mailing lists of websites and newsletters that you no longer read. And do this each day you see new emails pop up. They can be a big distraction and they only add to the clutter. With websites like Unroll.Me, you can see all subscriptions associated with your email account, and unsubscribe from whichever ones you want, all from one place.

 

2. Block focused time to breeze through emails in one shot

When running a small business you don’t have an assistant to push you into your next meeting. You also can’t afford to regularly disrupt your daily work flow by constantly checking emails. Think of checking your email as a standalone meeting and put a small chunk of time on your calendar to repeat 1-2 times daily, calling it ‘uninterrupted email time’. Before the day starts, take a couple of minutes to calendar these blocks into your day.

Remember to tweak this to what works best for you. Pick times when your physical energy naturally drops so you can use down time to at least be productive on the “low hanging fruit” emails you have to respond to.

 

3. Re-use what you’ve already perfected

Do you ever find yourself typing the same kind of email with very few changes? Have you hit the sweet spot and explained something well in an email that you wish you could reuse? Pre-written responses, aka ‘canned responses,’ are a great solution for you. With Gmail, Outlook and many other email platforms, it takes as little as 5 minutes to set up ‘canned responses’ in your email system. You can name each one so it appears in a dropdown menu that you can choose from when sending an email.

To enable canned responses on Gmail:

  1. Click the gear icon in the top right corner of your Gmail
  2. Go to “Settings”
  3. Click on “Labs”
  4. Search for “Canned Responses” and select “Enable”
  5. Click “Save Changes.”

Using your canned responses is really simple:

  1. Open a new email and type your message that you wish to save
  2. Click the triangular drop down menu (usually at the end of your row of icons, or beside the trashcan icon in some cases)
  3. Select “canned responses” and click “New canned response…”
  4. Add a title, and you’re done

Now when you go to send your canned response email, go through the same process but just select the canned response you wish to use.

If you’re using Outlook, this article is helpful in explaining how to set up canned replies using Quick Parts in Outlook.

 

4. Flip the switch – turn off notifications

When you’re working for yourself it’s extremely easy to get distracted by anything, particularly the ding of an email notification on your phone or computer. The best solution is to switch these notifications off. You can do this in minutes on your mobile by going into your notifications settings. If you’re concerned about urgent questions for clients, then have other ways for clients to contact you for those kinds of messages. The fewer distractions you have, the more work you get done.

 

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