Dealing with a staggering email backlog daily is a problematic chore. It takes a while to browse through your emails, identify priorities, reassign whenever needed, and handle everything without missing important backlog activities.
Here are 7 practical ways to reduce your email backlog and automate your process in a sensible manner, thus allocating time and focus on what matters the most.
1. Share Your Email Scarcely
For starters, receiving fewer emails would certainly make dealing with the backlog more feasible than it is now. Don’t use your primary email for newsletter subscriptions, social media websites and others that send tons of automated emails and notifications.
2. Automate the Incoming Mail
Spend some time setting up some filtering and archiving rules for your email. The more you fine tune this process, the easier would it be to prioritize and separate the non-urgent emails in the designated folders only read “on demand” or over the weekend.
3. Use Gmail
I may be biased but in Feb 2016 Google announced that Gmail has over 1 billion active users. And I’ve been a fanboy ever since I’ve signed up with an invite in 2004.
Gmail has a number of powerful features that would help with categorization, filtering, labeling emails, using different “stars”, making the best out of their AI-based “Priority Inbox”, leveraging several inboxes in a single dashboard and connecting different accounts to the same inbox.
I’ll mention some extensions below that are known to work well with Gmail, too. Here’s a handy workflow that may do the job as well:
How to Get to Inbox Zero in Gmail, Once and for All
4. Delegate to Others
Some entrepreneurs and plenty of business owners hire assistants who sift through their email and manage their daily schedules accordingly. This has some obvious benefits when it comes to saving some time as a trained human can also interact with partners or prospects and discuss details on your behalf which wouldn’t require your attention.
There are other issues related to costs, trust, reliability – but it’s still a notable option.
With the rise of virtual assistants in the US, Asia, and Europe, looking for some help getting your email organized may be in order, too:
Hire A Smart Assistant And Focus Only On Increasing Your Business Value
Mario Peshev’s answer to When do startup founders and CEOs delegate their email to an assistant?
5. Automated Email Assistant
Nowadays, there are global dashboards and team management platforms that aggregate information from different mediums (social, email, brand mentions, support tickets etc). In addition to that, there are a number of automated email assistants that you can leverage in order to reduce the load, automatically schedule some meetings, plan auto-replies given certain keywords and so on.
Less efficient than a person, but far more affordable. Some AI email bots:
- Personalized Artificial Intelligence beats Information Overload – Knowmail
- AI Assistant For Your Email
- an email assistant that makes you work less
- Astro – AI Meets Email, for Gmail and Office 365 on iOS and macOS
Boomerang is a Gmail extension although there are probably alternatives for other clients.
It provides a few handy features, but the two main ones are:
- Send later – lets you reply to an email and send it in a couple hours or even days to avoid the tedious back and forth of a quick reply during business hours
- Return later – reminds you of an email later in time (can specify date/time) so that your email reappears whenever you want without cluttering your backlog
Here’s a list of the options for reminders:
This particular email is for a low-priority gig for a high DA website open to receiving additional guest posts of mine. I keep pushing it back in time every couple of weeks or so and get back to them whenever I have some extra time to respond. That prevents the email from staying as unread (or forgotten) at all times.
It’s super handy for follow ups during outreach, reminders before a conference and what not.
7. Connect to other tools
Some folks really do forward most of their email to Slack, HipChat, a CRM, a PM system or something else. That may work out fairly well and reduce the backlog dramatically – especially if you set some rules that redirect email to other members in your team who would be the right point of contact.
Most tools are integrated with Gmail or Outlook (or Thunderbird) which is neat, and Zapier or IFTTT can often be used to further integrate those with Dropbox, Google Drive, auto-post received content to internal platforms, coordinate data for content marketers on social media etc.