With email having taken over as the most common form of business communication in today's world, how can small business owners deal with an inbox that's run out of control? Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Use multiple email accounts
- Practice good netiquette
- Practice regular mail housekeeping and management
Keep your personal and business email accounts separateEven if you run your own business, it's a good idea to use separate email accounts, so that you can easily keep track of which emails are personal and which are business-related. If you run several businesses, use a different account for each one.
Create folders for specific clients, projects or subject areasRather than leaving all your email in one inbox, use your mail program to create different folders for different purposes. Drag and drop your emails into these folders as soon as they arrive, or use your mail program to create filters that automate the process.
Act on your emails as soon as you receive themTake action as soon as you finish reading an email. Whether this means drafting a reply, moving it to a new folder or deleting it, never just leave it in your inbox with the intent of getting to it later.
Use appropriate subjects that describe and/or summarize the contentWhen sending emails, always make sure that you not only include a subject, but also that it adequately describes or summarizes the content of the message so you can tell what it's about at a glance. Examples of bad subjects: "re," "important," "Hey," etc. Some good subjects: "Excel Budget for September 2006," "Photos from trip to Greece," etc. Try and get others to follow the same policy when they write to you. If you receive an email without a subject or one that is inadequately descriptive, change it before replying.
Netiquette Guidelines for more about proper subject usage and general email netiquette. This page also has more info about Email Group Netiquette.
- Avoid forwarding emails and “urban legends” that specifically ask you to forward the message to other people.
- Regularly purge your email program of any unwanted or outdated messages you no longer need.