I recently read somewhere that your email inbox was someone elses to do list. You might have a few emails here and there that are just a “Hey, how are you doing?” But overall, most of your inbox is filled with calls to action.
For me, realizing that my inbox was someone elses to do list, was one of those moments where all the sudden I started to see my inbox as a way to manage my daily tasks.
My inbox was like the vortex where things go to be forgotten. You send me an email, I read it, and then after that I had no plan other than usually forgetting about it. Sometimes I wrote back right away. Others it was weeks later when I realized that there might be emails buried somewhere in my inbox that may have been important at some point weeks ago. Of course this method was not working for me since my business in run by email! But how could I tackle the inbox with efficiency and make it work for me?
The plan: Treat your inbox as a to do list.
I began to treat my inbox as a to do list. When I checked email I would figure out when I would respond or do said task. My goal was not to get to the zero inbox… although my goal was to have my inbox at zero, but make my inbox only be tasks that were on the to do list for that day. What? When I read a new email I would choose when to respond or do the requested task. Emails that only required a quick response would be taken care of right away, and those with tasks would be then set to remind me of the needed task to be dealt with at the appropriate time.
But how I was going to organize my inbox so it would work for me? There are many ways to go about this but here is what I did.
Use of filter and multiple inboxes with Gmail
Here is a great article on how to set this up and how to use multiple inboxes and filter: How to Pimp Your Gmail.
Filters for me were highly important. Many times I would manually go back and tag things, this is a huge waste of time. Set up a filter every time an email comes into your inbox, then when you archive the email, it is easy to locate.
Using multiple inboxes allows me to see the current projects I am working on and review the emails as needed. Discovering this was an awesome moment, however to use multiple inboxes you can no longer have the Category Tabs. You can solve this several ways, one way is to use the below service, Sanebox.
Sanebox gets mixed reviews with Gmail because many of its features you can get somewhere else (like their filtration system) for free. However, I feel in love with this service for three reasons:
- Email Snooze: You set up folders say 5 days, 3 days, tomorrow, next week, and so on. When an email arrives in your inbox, you choose when that email will come back into your inbox. You check your inbox on Friday afternoon, but don’t plan on doing said task or sending reply till Monday, snooze till next week. Then the email will pop up Monday morning when you are ready to respond.
- Reminders: Need to make sure someone responds back to you? You can set a reminder to make this happen when you send your email.
- Custom folders: You can make custom folders for types of mail, and set those to your liking. While gmail offers categories it is a bit less customizable than Sanebox. I don’t want them to interrupt my workflow but I want to be able to read them together. This is important because if you got to multiple inboxes you end up with all those categories in your inbox. You can of course set up your own custom filter, but this is just so much easier.
Again, much of this service might be accomplished with savvy filters, tags, and use of various free services, but for me the easy of use really sold me on Sanebox. Sanebox starts at $5. a month but you can try for free.
Want to know if people read your email? Use Sidekick.
What to send emails at a later date? Use Sidekick.
Want to see more about the person who just sent you an email? Use Sidekick. It will show you their Twitter feed, Facebook link, and profile image associated with that email. It can also give you company information.
Sidekick is a great service that offers a free version, or you can go paid and get unlimited read email notifications.
Where do I start on the ways I love Evernote. There is really so much to write about how Evernote can make your life better, but I will stick to just emails. Evernote Chrome web clipper allows you to clip your emails, and save them to a folder. You can choose the whole email chain or just one email from that chain. This is great to use for projects where you need to remember content in one place. And you can also use the Evernote reminder feature to ping you when you need to attend to the item in the email.
Want to get a good overview of Evernote? Check out the free digital book Evernote: Unleashed! Remember Anything, Accomplish Any Goal, Get More Done (Evernote for Beginners – Your Complete Guide to Mastering Evernote Quickly) over at Amazon.