Priscilla Walker


7 ways to master your inbox

Don't let email mismanagement scare away business opportunities

Priscilla Walker is the president and CEO of Your Dependable VA Inc., a virtual assistance company.

This column is dedicated to showing you quick and easy ways to run a (more) effective and efficient business. As a virtual assistant, I help my clients reach their goals daily by providing them business support. One question that I’m asked often is, “How can I manage my e-mail better?”

E-mail management is one of the most daunting tasks business owners face on a daily basis. When done efficiently, it can save you time and grow your business. However, poor email management can have lasting consequences.

One of the most common ramifications is missed business opportunities. Poor e-mail management implies that your business does not have the correct follow-up procedures in place to facilitate new business opportunities. Every missed opportunity for your business is a great opportunity for your competitors.

Frustration is another consequence. Many business owners feel their e-mail account manages them, rather than the other way around. The end result is that they cannot focus on their primary objectives such as running their company and winning government contracts.

Look at it this way: If you get paid $250 per hour and have to spend two hours looking for an important e-mail, you’ve just wasted $500. It’s true what they say, time is money.

So here are some quick ways to avoid falling into the trap of poor e-mail management:

  1. If you’re inundated with e-mails from various online groups, adjust the settings so that you can receive those emails once daily or weekly.
  2. Create individual folders for each client. This folder will hold all of the important correspondences as well as other related information.
  3. Keep all very important e-mails on your inbox’s front page. These e-mails need to be read immediately or no later than the end of business day. This way you can focus on your VIP emails only.
  4. Create a folder for all your company’s internal correspondence.
  5. Create a miscellaneous folder for all your other e-mails that don't need your immediate attention. You can also place e-mails here if you’re not sure exactly where to place them.
  6. Delete all other e-mails that has just take up space. (i.e. “Buy a tire now and save 10%!”)
  7. Set a 30-day deadline for reviewing e-mails in each folder.

Here’s a bonus tip: Back up your computer at least once daily. I recommend using an online backup system such as Carbonite. E-mails and other files can be encrypted twice before backup takes place. All new and changed files are automatically backed up when your computer goes idle.

Good luck, and here’s to a de-cluttered e-mail account!

About the Author

Priscilla Walker is the president and CEO of Your Dependable VA Inc., a virtual assistance company that provides professional administrative and social media marketing assistance to small businesses. []

Reader Comments

Thu, May 6, 2010

Online backups? Storing your mail in the Google cloud? Oh ye of excessive faith. And in the case of government e-mail users, a security non-starter. NEVER depend on any organization or hardware outside your control and perimeter to maintain any business-essential or proprietary data.

Thu, May 6, 2010

Seems there is a simpler way. For instance, with modern web email systems like Gmail business edition, users don't need folders at all, they can find any email quickly through search, have threaded conversations to keep everything in context and reduce the number of separate emails, can use one of more labels on a particular email when it pertains to different categories rather than trying to figure at the best folder to stick an email in each time, set advanced filters and policies to prioritize their daily mail, and have frequently used canned responses to everyday inquires with just one click.

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