A CEO’s email inbox can quickly become unruly if not properly managed. While being constantly bombarded with emails from various recipients making different asks of them, many CEOs may find they get overwhelmed by their inbox, leading to lower productivity and missed communication in the long run. And unfortunately, they don’t always have much time to deal with a mess of emails.
While you can’t always slow down the number of emails coming in, there are tools and strategies that can help get your inbox organized. Below, nine Young Entrepreneur Council members shared their favorite email inbox hacks to help you get a better handle on your work and priorities.
1. Move Some Communication To Slack Instead
It’s easy to get bogged down by the influx of emails that end up in your inbox each day. Organization and communication are crucial to managing your work and priorities. I like to communicate guidelines with my team for how they can flag blocked work to me. Sometimes this is a specific email subject line, or if emails aren’t making our team efficient, maybe we set up a dedicated Slack channel for these conversations instead. This practice can help avoid an overwhelming inbox and make everyone (yourself included!) more effective and efficient. Find what works best for your organization’s style, put the workflow into motion and stick to it religiously. Your teams will appreciate your dedication to unblocking their work, and your productivity will soar while you’re not distracted by email. – Swapnil Shinde, Zeni Inc.
2. Outsource Your Inbox Management
Outsourcing my inbox to my executive assistant is my key to success. Left to my own devices, I’d spend hours going through email. Now, I only have to respond to emails that require my attention. My EA responds to, sorts, filters or archives the rest. We have communicated my boundaries and preferences. I don’t need to respond to every customer service request, but if a dear friend is emailing me or seeking advice, I want to see it. I also have a private email address that only my husband, attorney and a few best friends are aware of (my EA does not manage this one). That keeps the work stuff at work and highly personal stuff with me. – Trivinia Barber, PriorityVA
3. Delete Without Fear
Delete unnecessary emails quickly and without fear. There are those who are afraid of deleting emails. For that reason, when they enter their inbox, they simply change the status of the irrelevant mail to “read,” leave it unopened or put it in a folder for “irrelevant mail.” But why do you want irrelevant email? It only takes up space in your inbox, preventing you from having the emails that are really important at hand. When you delete emails that you don’t need, you don’t even notice their absence, but when you leave them, they become a daily nuisance. – Kevin Ryan Tao, NeuEve
4. Set Up Filters, Forwards and Labels
A poorly managed inbox is sure to stress out any CEO. One way to manage your incoming mail is to take the time to set up inbox rules and filters. You can have emails automatically sent to specific folders, be archived, deleted, starred, etc. It also helps to create folders and subfolders like “action pending” and “follow up” and be consistent about using them. Another way to keep clutter to a minimum is to unsubscribe to junk emails that spam your inbox. If you have an assistant, first and foremost they must be dependable and trustworthy so you can train them on how to manage your inbox, which emails to reply to on your behalf, etc. – Ian Sells, Rebate Key Inc.
5. Respond To Business-Critical Emails First
Getting your inbox down to zero and being on top of email sound like the best strategy. However, with only so many hours in the day, is dedicating so much time to email really the best use of your time? Controversial, I know, but I truly think my time is much better spent scanning my inbox at set times throughout the day, flagging and responding to anything business-critical, then focusing my time and energy on supporting my team and pushing forward on the key things that are going to make a big impact in our business. Email often is other people looking for you to solve their problems, and if things are truly important, they will follow up or get in touch another way. – Sydney Paulsen, TiPJAR USA
6. Dedicate Time To Respond
Organization is key. When it comes to email, it’s easy to look at your inbox and get overwhelmed. Filtering systems and folder topic organization have helped me immensely. However, although this helps, it doesn’t solve the issue of the massive amount of emails I am constantly sorting through. I have found designating time in the morning to respond to urgent requests and time in the afternoon to ongoing projects or longer form emails I need to put more thought into is the most effective for me. – Nic DeAngelo, Saint Investment Group
7. Have Different Addresses For Different Purposes
Email can get out of control very fast if you don’t manage it. One way to get a handle on email is to use multiple email addresses for different purposes. It’s not always easy to do this, but it can help if most of your work email goes to one address, social email to another and so forth. If you currently have one email address, start a new account and have less urgent emails, social, entertainment and such sent to the new one. This can help you gain more control over your business email. – Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
8. Make Smart Use Of Folders
Emailing is the primary way in which I communicate with my clients and partners. In order to remain organized, I have a folder for each of the entities that I work with where I catalog all of the emails pertaining to that organization. In order to address those emails that haven’t been answered yet, I leave them as unread and prioritize unread emails at the top of my inbox. Once I respond to an email, that email is tagged with that entity’s folder and then archived for possible future reference. I also try to keep in mind when an email comes in that if it will take less than two minutes to do, I will go ahead and respond or complete the short task. – Joe Morgan, Joe’s Datacenter, LLC
9. Use The ‘Snooze’ Option
A new email inbox hack that has helped me manage work and priorities is the “Snooze” button. This button allows you to schedule when you want to receive an email. You can choose how many hours or days you want the email to come back so it’s not constantly sitting in your inbox. Using the Snooze option for your email is also a brilliant way to remind yourself about important tasks and events. A snoozed email will disappear temporarily from your inbox and will reappear unread and waiting for you to work on it when the time is right. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner