About a year ago, I was really frustrated by the amount of time I was spending checking and sending emails. I was spending, in average, three hours a day processing emails and now I process about the same volume of emails in only 30 minutes a day. I did this with the help of two of the most recognized time-management gurus and I want to share with you the lessons they taught me.
Empty Your Inbox Daily
Every day, after 30 minutes, my inbox goes from an average of 75 emails to zero. This if the routine I follow:

  • First I read all my emails and I delete all the junk mail.
  • As I do that, I also delete “FYI” emails. For example, if someone let me know that a project has been completed, I don’t answer back saying “Great!” That’s a waste of time. The fewer emails you send, the fewer emails you’ll get.
  • By this time, I end up with about 50% of the emails I originally had. I then I answer the emails that will take me less than one minute each to answer.
  • By this point, I end up with 25% of the emails I originally had. I send these to four different folders: “End of Day”, “End of Week”, “End of Month” and “Will Need Later”. I write down on my To Do list all the things I need to do that day. I process my “End of Week” folder every Friday and my “End of Month” folder every 30th. The “Will Need Later” contains information or documents that I will need at some point for some of my projects.

All this will take me around 30 minutes for 75 emails and I usually end up with two or three things more on my To Do list of that day, but that’s something I’ll take care of later that day.
Set a Time Limit
My time limit for processing emails is 45 minutes. That pushes me to prioritize very well. If something isn’t a priority, I can do it at the end of the week or the end of the month. Grouping tasks and processing them in batches is a lot more effective than doing them as they come my way.
Use as Few Words as You Can
I believe that 95% of emails can be written in no more than two sentences. Go right to the point. Sometimes I write my emails in the subject line and leave the body empty. This forces me to use as few words as possible.
Take Care of Email Once a Day
Some people really need to check their emails all the time, but most of us don’t. We like doing it because we don’t want to miss anything, but by dealing with email every hour, you can’t get any real work done. Your job as a business owner is to spend as much time as you can performing the top income-generating tasks for your company. Email, in most cases, isn’t one of them.
Disable Alerts
You don’t want to be distracted by alerts telling you that you got mail.
Don’t Download Your Emails Automatically
I prefer desktop applications as opposed to web-based email like Gmail or Hotmail because I can choose when to get new mail. I use Mozilla Thunderbird and every time I need to check an email I sent or one I received, new emails don’t get downloaded automatically. This way, I can check my new mail whenever I want.
Also, with a desktop application you can send email without checking your inbox. I even set up a keyboard shortcut that allows me to send a new email without even having to go to my email client. Just create a shortcut to “mailto:” and every time you click on it, your default email application will open a New Message window.
Use CC and BCC to Your Advantage
In my business, when a client asks me to do something, I could respond by saying “Sure, we’ll take care of this” and then email my staff and ask them to do it. What I do instead is to BCC my staff in the email I send to my clients. They know that when they get an email like that from me, they need to take care of it and let me know when it’s done.