I like to think I’ve got fantastic control over my email. I mean, if there’s one thing I’m especially good at in running a business it’s definitely email. But it wasn’t always this way. I promise. So in case you were like me and could use a good lesson on kicking your email in the butt, here is that lesson.

Flashback to two years ago.
My email was INSANE. Seriously. I had subscriptions coming out of my ears, some that I subscribed to and most that I didn’t. I was getting ten emails a week from every college I had ever applied to. I was getting newsletters from every organization I’d ever been a part of. My little OCD heart just couldn’t handle the triple digits I saw every time I opened my inbox. Enough was enough.

1. START FRESH

Thankfully I got married two years ago so it made sense to change my email and completely start new. You can do the same thing whether or not you’re getting married. Get a new email, only give it to the people you really want to have it, and start fresh. No full spam folder. No folder full of Facebook and Pinterest news. Clean slate. If you can’t get a new email address, get deleting. Delete it all. I’m 98% sure you won’t need to keep your archive full of junk from high school. Just do it.

Little tip: Keep that old email for things like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and random websites where you have to sign up with an email and they will inevitably send you lots of spam. That way you have a legitimate email to use but you aren’t having to see all the crap they send you and notifications for every like, repin, and favorite.

Flashback to one year ago.
My inbox had a steady stream of traffic from all directions. Readers from my blog asking for advice. News and sales for my favorite stores. Newsletters from my favorite bloggers. Every day I would sit down at my computer and sort through it all. I didn’t have time to read the newsletter from my favorite blogger- Trash. I’ll have time tomorrow to answer this readers question- Ignore. And while I felt like I had control over my inbox because I was seeing everything that came through it, I was spending WAYYY too much time on it.

2. CREATE FILTERS AND FOLDERS.

Every newsletter that came in full of advice and great tips for my blog and business was sent through a filter into it’s own separate folder. Now, when I have the time to read all of those informative newsletters, I have a reading spree and can take it all in. I created a filter and folder for my blog comments so at the end of the day I could see I got 12 comments on the day’s post and go to the post and reply to them all. Newsletters from my church or organization I joined will filter to another folder so I can read then when I feel like it, rather than in the middle of my work day. Filters. Folders. They keep the important stuff in your inbox and the less important stuff has it’s own place elsewhere. Do it.

Flashback to six months ago.
After a year and a half, I had again signed up for too many subscriptions. While I did actually sign up for them all, I didn’t exactly want them taking up space in my inbox. Sure I’d like to know if Macaroni Grill had a coupon, but I didn’t want it popping up three times a week with an announcement about a new dish. I could’ve created a new folder or filter for these emails, but I was signing up for too many and didn’t want them to get ignored in a folder full of unread announcements and news.

3. UNROLL.ME

Oh what a lifesaver. The first great feature of Unroll Me is that you can see everything you’re subscribed to and unsubscribe right there. It was pretty strange to go in and see that I’m subscribed to many different things I didn’t know I was and I could easily opt out right there from their website. No hassle at all. Then you can batch up all of your subscriptions (or just select the ones that want to be batched up) and then you get one daily digest of your subscriptions. Every morning you can check the daily digest they email you and see if there’s anything important or noteworthy and then move on.

Flashback to five months ago.
Now everything in my inbox is important. Clients. Bills. Blog readers. Friends. That’s about it. But I still didn’t like that my inbox had so many emails, even if they were unread. I wanted everything to be clean! I wanted to reach the fabled inbox zero! I wanted silence!

4. ARCHIVE. ARCHIVE. ARCHIVE.

Anything that doesn’t require action- archive it. If I paid the bill, archive it. If I answered the reader’s question, archive it. If I replied to my client and are now awaiting their reply, I archive it. It’ll come back to my inbox when they reply and in the meantime I can enjoy my clean inbox. If I need to go back and find those emails, they’ll be there in a simple search. No sense in keeping it in front of my face at all times if there’s nothing to be done about it. Only keep the things that require your attention!

Flashback to three months ago.
I was still spending way too much time on email. I would sit down at the computer to get to work and spend two hours responding to inquiries and clients and readers and friends. The rough part was, I was saying a lot of the same things! It felt so monotonous as I answered the same questions and told people my rates and design startup information over and over and over… It was just so time-consuming and as a business owner, there’s not enough time in the day for anything especially for five hours worth of emails.

5. CANNED RESPONSES.

I went through my old emails and began copying and pasting the responses I gave into new emails. Someone inquires about my blog design rates? Copy and paste that sucker. Someone asks me how I learned to design and code? Copy and paste that sucker. Someone wants more information on my design packages? Copy and paste that sucker.

Personally I hate receiving obviously canned responses with the simple “Hello-” at the beginning of the email and the zero acknowledgement to me and my genuine email. So no, I don’t just copy and paste and send. I copy and paste and then add a personal note and of course I use their name. I still want to connect with whoever is emailing me, I just don’t want to waste so much time doing it!

On another note, I do still spend a good amount of time sending personal responses to my readers and clients. I don’t believe in sending auto responses informing people that I’m busy- they know that. I also don’t believe in three word responses- when I get those myself I feel put off. I use exclamation points and happy faces and ask about their life. Emails can help form awesome relationships and I’m not going to give that up for the sake of time!

Today.
Today I am at inbox zero. And every day I make sure to get it back to zero. And it’s oh so wonderful to start my work day by getting on my email and only seeing five new emails that will only take me thirty minutes to take care of. Whether I set aside a specific time in the day to go through or if I want to respond as they come in, I can be efficient and quick! My email has zero control over my life. I’m the one that’s in control.

Hi, I'm George MP, founder of Trunk.Ly. I help bloggers grow their blogs from obscurity into something spectacular. I want to show you, step-by-step, how you can take your blog to the next level by showing you what works ... and what doesn't. Learn actionable tips and strategies to gain more targeted traffic, grow your list and build your influence.