Email: Can’t live without it, can’t live with it.

Used effectively, it’s a time-saving communication tool helping you stay in touch with your clients, vendors, and team members. But mismanaged, your inbox can become a nightmare time and energy zapper!

Having a plan of attack is crucial to taking and maintaining control. Inbox Zero was originally conceived as a strategy to manage email and increase productivity. Schedule a block of time to clear the clutter and finally take command of your inbox.

Follow these five steps:

Delete: This should be the very first thing you do and is the easiest step of all. If you know from the subject line that you’re not interested, delete immediately! That will probably eliminate at least 50% of the inbox overload.

Do: Next, quickly scan short emails and take immediate action. Experience the instant gratification of handling a task as soon as it hits your inbox so it never reaches your to-do list!

Defer: Then, schedule tasks when it’s more convenient. This tool removes an email from your inbox when it’s forwarded to a future date/time of your choice. Send yourself unlimited reminders for free from any device on any email client. And there is nothing to install. Check it out here: followupthen.com.

Delegate: Don’t hesitate to forward tasks to other team members with specific, easily understood directions. Give all the information required to ensure satisfactory follow-through.

Respond: Always respond proactively, starting with a subject line that explicitly states what the email is about. Be sure instructions are clear and provide concrete steps for the reader to follow. For example, give scheduling options rather than leaving a meeting request open-ended.

If you use Gmail or Outlook, this multipurpose tool can defer sending and receiving emails to another time, give follow up reminders, and even assist with crafting actionable responses. It’s free for 30 days with all the features of their Professional plan, but after that, the Basic plan is free forever. No credit card is required to sign up: boomerang.com.

Once you have control of your inbox, maintain it with these tips.

  • Calendar email review for no more than twice a day.
  • Disable notifications to avoid distractions.
  • Check your inbox in the evening and schedule tasks for the next day.
  • Opt out or unsubscribe immediately if you don’t want to be contacted.
  • Try SaneBox to separate email into inboxes for immediate action or later review.

What are your favorite email management tools and tips? Let us know in the comments below!

This article is part of an ongoing series on how small businesses can improve their procedures and processes to maximize their growth. What topics would you like to see featured? Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments!

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