The Four D's of Dealing with Email

An out-of-control inbox is one of those things that can really throw your productivity off so I am sharing my four D's of dealing with email in this short video.

Not only do I share my top tips for managing the email overwhelm, I also give you a few ideas around tools that you can use to minimize distractions, and stay on task.

Hello everybody, and welcome to fans of Better Biz Academy and Six Figure Writing Secrets!

This week I am going to talk about one of the most dreaded things in business or personal life that can become overwhelming if you let it, and that is email. I will talk to about my four D’s system for staying on top of my email.

The Four D's

For months, I was constantly struggling with an inbox that was always at somewhere around 100 messages. This was extremely stressful; I felt like every time I got into my email and tried to answer things or get caught up, I might be able to get those numbers down, but ultimately, it would still stress me out. All those people I had just answered would reply, and then I was behind all over again.

A lot of people have different systems out there that work really well for managing emails. I love to use the Gmail “inbox pause” so as not to be tempted to answer my emails every hour of the day.

You may need to train your clients or your team members to understand that you will only be checking a couple of times a day, so they know what to expect. “Hide inbox” is another great extension that allows you to not always see what's in your inbox or how many messages there are – an excess of emails tends to send a signal to your brain that you should stop whatever you’re doing and answer them. For this reason, I have a system of four D’s that I like to use to manage this issue.

Delete

The first one is Delete. This is the easiest one to do. I love sorting my Gmail inbox by typing in the command of “unread; category: primary." If you don’t put in “category: primary”, it’s going to bring up all those annoying promotion e-mails and Pinterest, and whatever else that distracts you.

Next, I scan my inbox for anything I can delete: spam, promotional e-mails I’m not going to read, things I don’t need to reply to or can just quickly open and mark as read. Those are the easiest things to deal with. This should give you at least a couple of things that you can take off your list immediately – it’s easy to do, so start there.

Defer

The next D I want you to look for is things that you can Defer. These refer to those things you need to deal with, but don’t have the time for right now. If you want to physically remove that from your inbox and have it come back at a later time, there is a great tool called Boomerang that will allow you to do that; you can send it away and have it boomerang back into your inbox the next time you check your e-mail.

Boomerang is also excellent for scheduling emails to go out to people at a later date so you can decide when they actually receive it and limit how quickly they can respond to you, for example. This works really well. Deferring is excellent; if you don’t have time to deal with something right now, it doesn’t need to be dealt with right now – you defer it until later. But make sure you set up a system like Boomerang so that it all comes back to you at a later time.

Delegate

The next one is Delegate. There are probably things sitting in your inbox that actually belong to somebody else on your team – the things you shouldn’t be doing. Simple emails you don’t need to be sending, projects that someone else on your team is responsible for managing but that somehow ended up in your inbox. Things like those you can easily delegate out to other people; forward them, create a Trello card, Asana task – whatever it might be.

Deal with It

Finally, the fourth D is for Dealing with your e-mail inbox. I recommend setting aside a specific period of time to answer as many e-mails as you can. There is an old adage that if you’re taking an e-mail checking break during the day, and it’s something that will take you less than 20 seconds to respond to, just send it out and get it over with so you don’t have to open that e-mail again in your Defer stage. The defer stage might be more appropriate for when a team member sends you an e-mail that says, 'Hey, this person reached out to us and wants to be a guest on the podcast. Can you review their materials?' Maybe I don’t have the time to do that now, so I am going to defer it to later.

But if someone sends me an e-mail saying,  'Hey, you never approved this blog post. Can you review it quickly and tell us if it’s good to go?' Then I’m probably going to do it if I’m in my e-mail checking time, so that I don’t have to reopen it and ask my brain to go back to that task later. If you can get a quick response out, go ahead and do it so you can cross it off your list.

These are my four D’s for dealing with e-mail. I’ve also heard that a lot of people love to use Inbox Zero. I have never managed to get my inbox to zero; I aim for about 30 e-mails or under. There are just some things that I need to defer until later – I can’t handle it all at once.

But I’m curious to know: What do YOU use to stay on top of your email?