7 Ways to get Your Inbox Under Control and Regain Your Entrepreneurial Sanity!

by Chris C. Ducker · 44 comments

Get Your Email Inbox Under ControlEmail is probably the biggest time-sucker for every and any entrepreneur working hard to create, build and run a business in today’s economy.

I’ve struggled with it myself in the past, but I’m happy to say I now have it very much under control – and it was all because of a handful of steps I incorporated into my daily work life.

A couple of days ago my buddy, Leslie Samuel published a post outlining changes that he was making in order to better manage his time and especially communication with followers and customers. This prompted me to shoot this video, which I hope will help bring some calm to the entrepreneurial storm, known simply as ‘Inbox Hell’.

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Getting your Inbox under control is easier than most think – it just takes a little planning! [Tweet This!]

I’d love for you to grab these tips by watching the video (there’s a couple of fun outtakes at the end!), but you’ll also find them in a short written fashion below, too!

Tip #1 – Start with the ‘One Click’ Rule

It doesn’t get any easier than this. When you open your email simply click ONCE, on either of the following buttons:

  • Reply
  • Delete
  • Archive

If you open an email message, then close it and go to another and then go back to it again later, you’re wasting a ridiculous amount of time. Get strict with yourself, and this tip along with save you probably hours every day!

Tip #2 – Engage the 3 Sentence Rule

For the last couple of years I’ve been replying to pretty much ALL of my email messages with no more than three sentences. Seriously. Even important business emails – if I need to elaborate on anything, I pick up the phone (you do remember that piece of equipment for use in business, right…?!!).

This works perfectly for me, as I’m more of a talker than a typer, anyway.

Tip #3 - Unsubscribe from Mailing Lists

If you’re enjoying online content then the chances are you’ve subscribed to a few mailing lists. Thats cool. But, now ask yourself if you’re still getting from them what you expected when you signed up. If the answer is not a resounding ‘Hell, yes!’, then hit the unsubscribe link at the bottom (or top) of the next email that arrives.

Tip #4 – Eliminate Yourself from ‘Internal’ Email Threads

This may or may not (if you’re a solopreneur) apply to you. But, if you’re running any sized team, the chances are that you’re being copied into emails that you really don’t need to be receiving in.

Are you a micro-manager? If thats the case, then this simple tip might not make much of a difference, but, if you’re just trying to stay busy for the sake of it, get yourself removed from the threads. The spare that it’ll create will be like ‘gold’ to you immediately.

Tip #5 – Start Using a Project Management System

Using something like Huddle, or Basecamp to work with people on a day to day basis, whether they are within your company structure, or not, enables you to cut your Inbox load down even further – this one is a potential game-changer, depending on how much ‘back and forth’ you do via email throughout the course of a normal working day.

Tip #6 – Don’t Use Your Inbox as a To-Do List

A lot of people I know make this mistake. And I mean a LOT! This is mad.

Just the simple action of leaving an email in your inbox, regardless of what color you flag it, or what nice label you give it, goes against you and your productivity levels. Get your ‘To-Do’ items out of your Inbox and put them somewhere else, instead, such as:

  • A notepad
  • An iPad
  • A Smartphone
  • Post-It Notes
  • Index cards
  • Excel Sheets
  • Whatever!

Tip #7 – Get Your Email into the Cloud – NOW!

If you’re not experiencing email in the cloud already then you simply don’t know what you’re missing!

Just imagine, no matter where you are, no matter what device you’re using, you can get directly into your inbox, sent items, archive – everything. Gmail, for example, allows you to use their platform with your own domain name, so you can send and receive email just as easily as you would with Mail, or Outlook (for PC fans), but with the added mobility factor of being able to access and ‘get busy’ with your email – anywhere.

This for me was one of the biggest game-changers ever, in my mission to take myself out of my office full-time. The freedom factor it produced was amazing. Really.

Got any of your own email productivity tips? Links to other articles that you think would help us all? Just want to poke fun at me for my video outtakes? That’s cool… Please comment below – I love hearing from you!

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Guinto October 17, 2012 at 14:40

I just remember the day when my inbox was really going like crazy. I was receiving a lot of e-mails from various social media sites I subscribed in. Whenever I see a good post, I easily hit the subscribe button. Then someone knocked some sense in my head when I read that when I really want something, I will definitely find it online. So no sense in subscribing to e-mails I’ll never know if I’m gonna read or not.
I unsubscribed to the others already, and now my inbox looks more neat.

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 01:23

A neat looking inbox keeps the ‘crazies’ away…!
:-)

Glad you’ve worked out how to keep your day super productive, Susan.

C

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Vicky October 17, 2012 at 16:24

Chris, you’re doing it again! Such great info! Thanks so much! The #1 thing that clutters my inbox is my habit to check email via phone and plan on responding on the laptop and forget to get to it. It’s horrible and I am changing the way I read my emails as of today. Love the “one-click” rule!!! Why couldn’t I thought of that?

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 01:22

Yes, the one click rule is golden (hence it being at the top of the list!).

Enjoy it, and let me know how it helps you out, okay!?

C

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Annabel Candy October 17, 2012 at 17:30

I constantly send myself emails with To Dos – and they never get done! Moving them over to Evernote now:) My other tip is canned responses in Gmail. I have about 10 set emails I use constantly. It helps as I don’t like to ignore people.

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 01:21

Send yourself emails….?!?!!

OUCH!

So glad you’re making the move now. :-)

Love your idea of templated responses – I also do the same thing – have done for some time. It’s a great way to handle the masses and the questions that pop up more and more, than anything else.

Thanks for the comment, Annabel.

C

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diamantis October 17, 2012 at 20:43

Most of the mails should be deleted.

If it is really really important , they’ll find a better way to reach us . :)

Be healthy and smile !

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 01:19

Smiling, my man!
:-)

See…!

C

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Karen October 17, 2012 at 21:49

I love the way in your email you pushed your video first and then gave people the option to go straight to the text version, I would be really interested in the click-through rate for those people who went straight to text as opposed to viewing the video if you would share??

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 01:18

Hi Karen

Yep – I’m gonna be interested, too! Stay tuned… I have no problems sharing – when I have enough data.

Cheers,
C

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Garry October 17, 2012 at 21:55

Thanks for adding the text version, it’s great for people like myself who don’t have time for watching videos, and I’m sure it helps with your SEO too! Are you planning to do this with all the videos from now on?

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 01:17

Yes, Garry – I will be providing text versions of all videos going forward.

Glad you appreciate the content – in whatever format is easy for you to enjoy.

C

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Julie October 19, 2012 at 05:18

Awesome! I must confess I read the text first, and because I found it so interesting, I still ended up watching the video a couple of days later :-)

Thanks!

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Chris C. Ducker October 19, 2012 at 17:51

Great!

Glad you enjoyed the video, Julie.

C

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Travis Jamison October 17, 2012 at 22:15

Good tip on the one click rule. That is without a doubt my biggest email downfall currently. Changing that now

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 01:16

Nice.

Actionable steps being taken off of one of my posts – thats what its all about!

Thanks, Travis!

C

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Travis Jamison October 18, 2012 at 10:14

I remembered this post this morning as checking email. I read it, didn’t feel like replying then and started to leave. I remembered that I made the promise to myself to finish it each time it’s opened so I did. One last thing to linger in the back of my head now.

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 11:56

BOOM X2.

Love it.

Thanks for the appreciation, bud.

C

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Srinivas October 17, 2012 at 22:33

Great tips my friend. I love the ‘one click” rule. You won’t believe this but I recently purged my Skool of life Email list and encourage peopled to unsubscribe so I wasn’t wasting time in their inbox. I told them if they weren’t getting value to unsubscribe.

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 01:15

Doesn’t surprise me at all, bud. I’ve done it TWICE in the past.

And the funny thing is that I’ve never seen any major peaks in regards to people actually unsubscribing, which is awesome!

Thanks for dropping by.

C

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Leslie Samuel October 18, 2012 at 18:30

Haha, I just changed one of my first follow up emails to my subscribers a few weeks and it now invites them to unsubscribe and tells them why they should unsubscribe if they aren’t taking action. Man, the response to that email was insane.

When I first sent it out, I had so many responses that I would respond to 10 and then have 10 more waiting. Crazy stuff.

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Chris C. Ducker October 19, 2012 at 17:52

Crazy, indeed… But, hey – better than getting no emails at all, right….?!!!

C

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Thomas October 17, 2012 at 23:31

With my emails, I never delete anything so I always have records of conversations I may need in the future. Anything that I need to respond to that I haven’t yet is flagged. However, as I am getting more and more emails, that system seems a bit broken so I am going to have to implement so other more efficient tactics to make sure I reply to everyone in a timely manner. Great tips here Chris!

Thomas

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 01:14

Never deleting anything would be tough for me. I simply say ‘Will I need this…?’, and make a decision… Although it doesn’t hurt, especially with the amount of storage space you get for free nowadays.

Appreciate the comment, Thomas!

C

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Adam @ Bootstrap Cafe October 18, 2012 at 01:43

Hi Chris, 3 biggest time makers for me are:

1. my admin assistants don’t cc me into any emails, they just get in touch if there’s a problem

2. limited emails accounts connected to blackberry

3. only subscribing to three blogs ever at one time (yours included)

P.S. A related point – I extend this minimal approach to Twitter – I follow only a few people and save even fewer of those I follow on two lists. These are the only people I check tweets from most of the time, because you can only interact meaningfully with a handful of people.

Hope this helps

Adam

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 11:43

First up – glad I’m in your blog list! :-)

Secondly – love your idea of limiting your BB emails. It’s so easy (I had a BB years ago and went mad with it!) to add email addresses on a BB device, and before you know what happens, you’re slammed, daily, by the sheer amount of email that you receive.

Madness.

Your Twitter plan of attack is also interesting – BUT – do you feel limiting the amount of people you follow, limits interaction ON Twitter…? I’m curious to hear your answer.

C

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Ron Tester October 18, 2012 at 01:47

Chris: More excellent and super practical advice! I am going to print them out and keep them taped to my computer until they become habit.

One possible favor to ask: I have a Tumblr account (not my main WordPress platform) where I store and share information I like and I think would be useful to my colleagues. I have set it up so that posts there automatically share to twitter, Facebook, etc. Any chance we could get a Tumblr share button to go along with the other ones you have on the left?

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 11:47

Hi Ron

The plugin I use doesn’t allow Tumblr, for some reason – I’ve just added Linkedin as another reader requested it. Sorry, bud.

Thanks for the kind words, and I promise to keep rockin’ out actionable, practical advice and tips, so stay tuned!

C

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Alex B. October 18, 2012 at 04:04

Hey Chris!

Great tips here my friend! As on right now, I do not delete e-mails. Inbox space is not an issue for me, so I just apply labels to various categories of e-mails, and has I go through e-mails, I either reply, file away, or delete!

So far I’ve had decent luck with my process. However, as time goes on, and the number of e-mails I receive increase, I may have to revisit my process! ;-)

Thanks again Chris!

All the best,
-Alex

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 11:48

More than welcome, Alex – glad you found the post helpful.

Its funny – I never anticipated a problem with email, until it literally crept up on me and BOOM! Massive changes needed.

But, like I say in my Tweetable – with a little planning, you can gain control!

C

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Arnaud Joakim October 18, 2012 at 07:27

Hey Chris!

Great video! I wanted to share it on my LinkedIn but you don’t have that option in your sharing widget.

Cheers!
Arnaud

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 11:55

Added it now, Arnaud.

Thanks for the interest AND for the support – share away!!!

C

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Michelle Dale October 18, 2012 at 14:34

Good email management takes a lot of discipline. Tip number one is golden Chris!

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Chris C. Ducker October 18, 2012 at 16:45

Thanks, Michelle…

It’s a HABIT, more than anything else, I feel.

Thanks for dropping by.

C

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Leslie Samuel October 18, 2012 at 18:27

Hey Chris,

GREAT tips man. Shoot, even though I’m handing over most of my email to my VA, I can definitely benefit from using some of these tips for the email that I DO check. ESPECIALLY the one click rule. I’m in the process of purging my personal email inbox right now. I love moving towards more efficiency!

Thanks for the post!

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Chris C. Ducker October 19, 2012 at 17:53

You’re welcome, my man.

And thanks for being the inspiration behind the post in the first place!

C

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Ella October 18, 2012 at 22:49

So glad I have learned Google Apps from Michelle Dale. So far I have controlled my email to always less than 100 in my inbox daily. Still can’t get away from unsubscribing to mailing lists esp since most of the lists I subscribe to are power entrepreneurs just like you and Michelle :)

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Chris C. Ducker October 19, 2012 at 17:51

Good to hear, Ella.

Thanks for the kind words, too.

C

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Cheryl November 23, 2012 at 06:32

Hi Chis, I loved your one click rule as this is my biggest downfall, I will implement it immediately.
I would also like to say how much I love the fact that you answer each comment, so many times I read through a post get to the comments and guess what, someone has put forward a very interesting question that I would also love to know the answer to, and you guessed it no reply at all from the blog owner, it’s very frustrating, certainly does not make you feel like you want to comment yourself.

thanks again
Cheryl

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Chris C. Ducker November 23, 2012 at 09:09

Hi Cheryl

My ‘reply to every blog comment’ is just as important to me, as my ‘one click rule’..!

Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for commenting for the first time. It’s a pleasure to have you as part of the community.

Chat more, here, soon!

C

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Dean Martin December 27, 2012 at 16:14

The RDA Rule#1 rocks!

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Chris C. Ducker December 27, 2012 at 22:28

Glad you liked the post, Dean.

Happy to hear from you, here on the blog.

C

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Chris Huntley January 3, 2013 at 14:19

Hey Chris,
These are some great tips. I would add two suggestions.

1. Limit yourself to opening your email only a couple times per day for a set period of time. (this will force you to implement some of your suggestions above)

2. Use software that allows you to set hotkeys to all your most common phrases. For example, #ty becomes “Thank you for your email.” I use Phrase Express for Windows and am so happy with it.

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Chris C. Ducker January 4, 2013 at 00:19

Great stuff, Chris.

I’m not a fan of only opening email once or twice a day. Honestly speaking, I think it’ll incredibly unpractical in todays business climate. But, that’s just my opinion.

Love the hotkey suggestion, though!

C

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