How To Manage 1,000+ Emails In Your Inbox

Last month I got over 1,000 emails, most of them were directly sent to me and required a response.

 

‘So how did I manage 1,000+ emails…?’

Without pulling my hair out?

(That was a low-blow — you can do better)

Here’s how I managed 1,000+ emails. Keep reading.

Chances are if you’re anything like me you get waaaay more email than you’d like.

You might not get 1,000+ emails — but it’s still a heck of a lot more than you want.

Like those silly 2-for-1 coupons in your mailbox that you’d trash out.

But the difference with email is that every time you get a new email, it’s right there. On your phone, on your computer — and that ‘red’ icon is pretty hard to ignore.

SO what do you do?

How do you manage 1,000+ emails without breaking a sweat

In this post, you’ll discover the simple tools and tricks you can use to manage 1,000+ emails coming to you in your inbox.

Plus you’ll discover a secret tool to help you schedule your emails, replies, and followups with your clients and customers.

You’ll also learn a simple tool that will help you become more productive without distraction from those 42 unread emails in your inbox.

You will also learn a simple technique I use to read the mountain of email that I get each day. Chances are you’ve done this before, and felt GUILTY doing it. I’ll show you how you can avoid the guilt, and feel good.

Finally, you’ll also learn a simple method I use to stay on top of my communication — even when I don’t answer my emails. You’ve heard of this before, but are using it wrong.

These are pretty simple ideas and a few cheap tools that you can use to manage 1,000+ emails.

I can only share with you what has worked for me. Use them. Test them for yourself. Keep what works, and throw out the rest. But please, use them FIRST — before you call bullsh*t on any of the ideas here.

Give yourself the chance to use them.

So let’s jump right in and look at the tools and techniques I use to manage 1,000+ emails

But before I do — I want to share with you

A New Way To Look At Email

This is going to be a mind shift for you — it was the first time that I thought about this. But this simple mind shift has helped me go from freaking out each morning to having fun with email.

Before, I thought about emails as something like a ‘phone call.’

I learned this from the 90s chick-flick “You’ve got mail!”

I’d wake up in the middle of the night hoping that the ‘ding’ of the email was a hot girl emailing me to ask how my day was.

(This is before I got married to my lovely wife… you pervert! 🙂 )

That’s also the reason why I don’t sleep with my phone anymore… but that’s a story for another day.

Let’s get back to the email thingy. Every time the computer would ‘ding’ I’d check it and see if there was something that I had to do with the email.

The worst part is that most offices expect and encourage that you reply to your email all the time, and keep it open. Treating it like ‘water cooler’ of sorts.

Meaning; if you’re at work, then it is expected that you will have read the email that was sent to you a minute ago. And have a response ready.

I’ve had overzealous colleagues send me an email, then walk into my office and ask me if I read it — two minutes later. To mess with them I’d say, I didn’t get it.

I’d say, “It’s probably still in the internet postal service.”

One guy even believed that there was such a thing and started cursing it like the real postal service.

I never told him the truth. It was too funny.

Anyway, getting back to how we look at email.

It is not a place to communicate, it’s communication itself.

‘Huh?!?’

See most people (myself included) think of email as a place to communicate. Something that you have open. Like you go to an office to work, sit at a desk to write, pick up the phone to make a phone call.

When email first arrived, it was a place to communicate. Some people had email, and others did not. Which meant that if two people had email, they could communicate in that medium.

Like two people can talk if they have a phone, using that medium.

But over time — the phone became available everywhere. Which meant that anyone could reach someone else.

Because this transition of the phone becoming accessible was slow. No one thought of the phone as a ‘place’ but as a medium to communicate.

Before the phone, we could communicate with letters. After the phone, we can talk with voice.

But with email this transition was fast.

It took the landline phone a century to reach a billion people.

The email did that in twenty years. That’s five times faster than the phone.

Or another way to look at it is this. If one billion people represent a ‘family unit’ in the world with each family having four kids and two parents.

It took five generations to adopt the phone. Which means, each generation progressively adopted the phone.

Our parents had a phone.

Our grant-parents might not have had a phone, but they had used it.

Our great grandparents might not have had a phone, or used it, but they had heard about it from a friend.

And so on.

But for email, it only took one generation to adopt the email. Our parents didn’t have an email account. We did. Our grandparents didn’t even know what an email account is, and for some of us, that’s still true.

(And with social media, it was even faster. It took social media five years to reach a billion people. But like I said, that’s for another day. No more social media talk!)

‘So what happened with email?’

Email became popular in one generation, that had not grown up with it, and started using it as a place to hang out.

That’s why we have access to our email clients all the time

Think about it for a second.

What would you call someone who was sitting next to their physical mailbox waiting for the postman, twenty-four-seven?

Or how about the person, who sat next to their landline, checking if the ‘dial-tone’ was still alive?

Hmm… seeing the connection there.

Don’t look at me — I was that guy. I would have my email client open all the time and click on ‘refresh’ every 5 minutes.

Okay enough of the background…let’s look at how I went

From An Email-Addict to Managing 1,000+ Emails

Here are simple tips and tools I used to help me go from an email addict to managing 1,000+ emails without breaking a sweat.

I’ll break this section into two portions, the tools, and the tips.

Both work together, but I’m breaking them apart to make it easier. Let’s look at the tools first; then we’ll look at the tips.

Tools To Manage 1,000+ Emails

1. Gmail

Gmail isn’t just a free email client; it is one of the most powerful email clients.

If you run your business or know some basic setting for your email server, you can connect your email to Gmail. Which means that you can use Gmail as the primary client to access all your emails.

But what do you do if you don’t have Gmail? No worries. The tips I share work with every email client.

Onwards.

2. Boomerang

Boomerang is a neat little Gmail extension that allows you to schedule emails, defer them, or even remind you of the time when you need to reply to an email.

Great little tool. This is an advanced feature that email clients like Microsoft Outlook have built in. Most people don’t know this and don’t use this.

But sometimes the best thing you can do for an email is defer it. So you can get back to it when you have more information. I’ll share with you more about how to use it in a minute.

3. Google Chrome

This is the browser that I use to view my emails. I could use the built-in client that I have on my Mac, or get a third party client.

But Google Chrome is free and does everything that I need it to do. Plus there are some cool third party extensions that I can use with this.

One of my favorite ones is

4. Inbox When Ready Chrome Extension

This hides my Gmail inbox from me. I can view it if I want to — but not during certain times of the day. The benefit of having this is that if I need to send an email in the morning, I can do it.

I don’t get distracted by all the emails that I have received. Since my inbox is hidden.

I can only access my inbox during defined times of the day. Otherwise, I’m locked out.

And the final tool

5. Filters / Folders

Filters and folders in Gmail. I use these like they are going out of style. Everything in my inbox has a filter and a separate folder.

The benefit of doing this is that for most of the email I don’t have to touch it. It gets archived or filtered based on the content.

For example, I love the Banana Republic. They keep sending me a newsletter with discounts now and then. But I only need to access those discounts when I’m actually in the store.

So what do I do? Create a filter that marks the email as ‘read,’ and archives it in a folder. I never see it. I never touch it.

I do the same for every informational ‘top-down’ email. You know the ones that ‘head-office’ keeps sending about ‘new promotions.’ Or ‘policy changes.’ Or ‘updates about upcoming events’ etc.

Mark as read.

Archive.

Most of the stuff that hits my inbox gets this treatment.

Mark as read.

Archive.

“But Riz, I have to read everything…”

I hear ya — and in the ‘tips’ you’ll get a detail about how to read everything.

Stick with me here

What this leaves are emails that I need to reply back to, take action on, answer.

Which is still a lot.

So what do we do about those emails? Here are

Tips On Managing Emails That You MUST Deal With

Here are 6 (because seven is so over-rated) tips on how to manage your emails that you must deal with.

1. Treat Emailing As A Meeting

Treat ’emailing’ as a meeting. And if you think about it, it is a meeting. Between you and another person.

They’ve asked you something. And you’re responding.

But not only that, with email — some might take you two minutes, others might take you 30 minutes.

So we have to check ourselves with a few rules. The first of them is to treat ‘emailing’ as a meeting.

Which means you schedule a specific time when you email. You can send the email at a different time using Boomerang, but you can only write them at a particular time.

For me, twice a day works best — 12 pm and 4 pm. I write my emails and schedule them based on when they would seem right for the recipient to receive.

If you’re just starting, sending them at 12 pm and 4 pm will work for most situations.

Don’t sweat it too much, except to only read and reply to email at this particular time.

So at 12 pm, you open your email inbox with the intention of responding to all email that is there.

Some will take longer, and others will take a shorter amount of time.

Which bring me to tip number two

2. Two-minute replies 

Most of your emails will take two minutes or less to answer. Usually, it’s quick information that people want, a decision, or a question that they need solving.

If it takes two-minutes — answer it immediately with one sentence or less.

Say, “Thank you for that information.” Or

… “I’d love to hear more.” Or

… “Not sure what you mean, could you tell me more.”

If it will take longer than two minutes. Or if you need to research it. Or the email is LONG, and you will require more time to digest it. You have two choices.

1. Defer it
2. Schedule it.

To defer it, look at the sender. If it’s someone you can defer (a colleague, a friend, a client) ask them to repeat their question in one sentence.

If it’s someone you can’t defer (a boss, a client, a friend) then print out the email. Schedule when you can answer it in your calendar.

Using Boomerang (or Outlook) get the email to pop back in your inbox when you’ve planned to work on this.

Keep doing this until you’re at the end of your inbox. At this point, you’ve replied to all the two-minute emails and printed and scheduled all the longer emails.

Don’t answer the longer emails yet. This is imperative. If you do, you lose. We’ll talk more about how to schedule tomorrow, but for now, schedule it and move on.

There will be some emails that will have information for you. The upcoming dinner party, a reminder of an event you want to attend, invite from friends, etc.

Here’s what you do with emails like that

3. Mark as read/skip inbox

These are what I call ‘informational emails from personal contacts.’ They don’t need an answer — and they don’t want an action.

They are informational in nature.

Mark them as read, archive them.

If you use Outlook, move them to a folder other than the inbox.

Other emails that don’t need action are IT sending out an email about

… ‘web server maintenance over the weekend.’ or

… ’database inaccessible from 9 pm to 12 pm.’ Or

… ’the printer is broken, and we’ve asked the APC Computers to fix it.’ Or

… ‘donuts in the kitchen for anyone who wants them…’

(Okay that last one might be substantial and requires immediate action)

What do you do after you’ve read the donut email, replied to the two-minute emails, and have printed a few dozen emails?

4. Archive everything

If a client sent an email, move it to the ‘client’ folder. If a friend sent an email, archive it.

Don’t leave anything in the inbox. Here’s why

Either you’ve replied to the email, in which case archive it. If there are more replies needed you will be asked. So archive it. Or

You’ve asked for a one sentence clarification on that email. In which case you’ll get a reply back. So archive it. Or

You’ve printed it and scheduled it in your calendar. In which case this is something that you will work on later. So archive it.

At the end of this ruthless archiving, you should be left with

5. Inbox Zero

This is a profound concept. It means that there isn’t any email that you haven’t taken action on. There is nothing left sitting in your inbox.

No pending items.

You’ve done the next step on them.

Replied to it.

Asked for clarification.

Scheduled it to work on.

That’s it. At this point, your inbox should be zero. I do this twice a day.

You can do it less if you want. But do it every day. When you leave your work, have your inbox at zero. Nothing in it.

So when you come to work tomorrow, you can DO the work. Before you’re thinking about all the emails from yesterday.

‘Great. But what about all the emails that I never read and archived using filters?’

Excellent question. This is where the next tip comes in

6. End Of Day Review

Before you’re finished with your second email session, use it for an end of day review.

This is a simple review of all the email that you received each day to see if you did take action on all the emails.

To ensure that you’re not missing out the drinks-invite your colleagues sent you. Missing drinks would be a travesty.

For Gmail, it has an ‘All Mail’ folder where all mail is. I usually click on that folder before I close out for the day and review all the emails I received in the day.

This helps me double-check at the end of the day that I didn’t archive an email that I should’ve replied to. Or missed an update that is imperative.

That’s it — you’re done.

At this point, your email inbox is zero. You’ve replied to everything that needed an answer to, and you’ve taken care of business in the inbox.

You didn’t spend all day sitting next to the ‘phone’ checking for the dial tone.

But there are a few things that you must be aware of

What To Look Out For When Handling 1,000+ Emails

First, doing this will take some effort.

I still relapse into a fourteen-year-old teenager waiting for his crush to call and check the dial tone.

I do look at my email on my phone in the evening especially when I’m expecting an urgent response. I’ll sometimes do it at lunch also, or first thing in the morning.

It’s okay.

If you’re expecting an email for your next promotion, or a client sending a contract, it is normal to be anxious. Check your email. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

But realize that it’s only okay if you do it once in a while and not as a compulsion.

Second, you will have the occasional person send you a 5,000-word tome when you’ve asked for a one sentence summary. Those people exist. You and I both know them, and sometimes I am that person.

Forgive me. Schedule this email to reply to, and move on.

Third, there will also be some spastic people. They will call you a few minutes after they’ve emailed you wondering why you haven’t replied to them.

The honest answer, in this case, will be the best — “I haven’t looked at my email yet, can I get back to you when I do.”

Since you’re using the ‘Inbox when you’re ready” you won’t have looked at the inbox, and you will get back to them when you do.

So no worries there. If they need an immediate reply, say “I’d like some time to consider the best options before I reply.”

Which is also true. Most people will let you be at this point. Even your boss will be impressed with your thoughtfulness.

And that’s how you deal with 1,000+ emails without breaking a sweat.

Your Turn

Do you have some suggestions that you use? Am I missing something? Would love to hear what you do in your process.

Leave a comment letting me know what’s worked for you in the past and how you deal with emails.