Top 5 Email Problems (and Solutions)

Top 5 Email Problems (and Solutions)

According to a Huffington Post survey, the average U.S. worker spends 6.3 hours per daydealing with email. Are you guilty of spending way too much time in your email inbox?

Implementing the right tools to use your inbox more efficiently will help you be more productive so you can spend less time managing and more time creating. It’s not about how much time you spend in your email inbox, it’s about how you spend that time.

Here are the top 5 email inbox problems we’ve experienced while being glued to our laptops as virtual freelancers:

  1. Losing track of emails and responses
  2. Using your inbox like a task manager
  3. Spending too much time responding to emails
  4. Having too many unread emails
  5. Feeling anxious when dealing with emails

If you’re in the same boat, check out some of our favorite email inbox management tips and tools below.

PROBLEM 1: Losing track of emails and responses.
SOLUTION: Use an automated email scheduler.
TOOLS: The Top Inbox / Boomerang

Reminding yourself to schedule a meeting, answer a client, or follow up about a specific project has never been easier.

I use The Top Inbox across all my inboxes. This extension allows you to schedule emails to be sent later, set reminders in your inbox, track opens and send followups with email sequences. Your first 15 uses are free, but anything more is $4.99 a month.

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Even though I’ve made the switch to The Top Inbox, it’s worth noting that Boomerang is also available for Outlook users.

Boomerang is an email scheduler that allows you to set reminders or defer emails. Like The Top Inbox, the free version is limited, and the paid version ranges from $5 to $50, depending on your needs.

PROBLEM 2: Using your inbox like a task manager.
SOLUTION: Keep tasks and emails separate.
TOOLS: PDF Checklist / Trello / Asana / Active Inbox / Streak

There are a couple of big problems with using your inbox as your main task manager:

  • No way of adding details to an email, like notes, timelines, deadlines, etc.
  • Once an email is out of sight, it’s usually out of mind.

If you work with a distributed team, the following options are great because they allow multiple people to track the progress of a project or task: Trello, Asana, Active Inbox, and Streak.

Since I work solo, I find that using a simple, writable PDF (like this free one) to track to-dos works best for me.

PROBLEM 3: Spending too much time responding to emails.
SOLUTION: Answer emails in shifts. 
TOOLS: Timer / Checker Plus for Gmail

Scheduling time for responding to emails is beneficial in two major ways:

  • I focus on larger projects or tasks without the constant distraction of checking my inbox because I know I have a designated time for that.
  • I focus more on the quality of my email responses.

Try setting a timer or alarms at regular intervals on your phone or computer (like this free one that is not an extension, so it won’t slow down your computer). When the timer goes off, check emails that require your immediate attention, and reset the timer.

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Perhaps you have a high touch client who usually sends urgent tasks. Checking your inbox every two hours might not be sufficient.

Rather than keeping your inbox open around the clock, install Checker Plus for Gmail. This extension makes it possible to manage multiple email accounts in your current window and receive notifications right on your desktop.

PROBLEM 4: Having too many unread emails.
SOLUTION: Organize emails consistently.
TOOLS: 3 Tips (explained below)

Doing these three things consistently has helped me create very helpful habits for keeping my inbox decluttered and organized:

1. Label and use tabs (Gmail only): Instead of deleting content you may want to read later, simply drag the email over into a labeled tab (subscriptions, family, etc.). Gmail will sort future messages from that email address, leaving only the most important emails in your primary tab.

2. Archive it: The easiest way to keep your inbox decluttered is to simply archive emails you’ve already dealt with but might need in the future. It’s like a hidden inbox. Also, if you need to pull up the email again, just type in a key term, subject line, or sender in your search bar. Archiving is especially helpful for general emails or if you don’t like using tabs for everything.

3. Edit subject line: I include specific and relevant details in the subject line when I send emails to clients. If a client sends a general subject header, use the “Edit subject” option to change it to something more specific. For example, instead of “Quick Question,” write “Project Proposal Details (Due 6/19).”

PROBLEM 5: Feeling anxious when dealing with emails. 
SOLUTION: Breathe regularly.
TOOLS: Use visual reminders, like a desktop background or note.

There is actually a name for the anxiety most people feel when dealing with emails: email apnea.

This term was coined by former Microsoft researcher Linda Stone, and refers to the unintentional habit of holding one’s breath while checking emails.

A consequence of unintentionally holding your breath is that it puts your body in “fight or flight” mode, which causes your your heart rate to increase drastically. This causes you to feel anxious, which in turn, influences your thoughts and actions.

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix: breathing. Before you open your inbox, or before you even respond to a specific email, take just 3 deep, diaphragmatic breaths. Opening your lungs will slow your heart rate and bring your stress levels down, making it easier to respond to an email with a calm and focused mind.

We love this advice so much, we even made our own desktop wallpaper as a reminder. (FREE download here).

By using these tips consistently, you will be able to use your inbox more efficiently and focus more attention on your projects and on growing your business.

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Source: Medium:Remote Working
Top 5 Email Problems (and Solutions)

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