Tech Influencers Tackle Email Overload
For experts and tech influencers who are bombarded with hundreds of emails on a daily basis, reaching Inbox Zero is a time-consuming hassle. However, email is the most commonly used online communication medium, including for influencer marketing, so it's impossible to avoid. Remembering that it is a means to an end will help you focus on the important work and staying on top of tech news, rather than living life in your inbox.
The good news is that there is an increased productivity scope of 25% to 30% when it comes to email. With email having become an essential part of our lives, it is crucial to manage your accounts (and your time) effectively.
Conquering an overflowing inbox is never easy. Pending emails turn into a pile we keep sorting for days, and when we lose patience, email bankruptcy is declared. Becoming an email ninja requires persistence, patience, and discipline, but with increasing numbers of emails, it is just getting tougher.
We reached out to top tech influencers who are constantly under email overload and asked them to share their secret mantras to manage their inboxes.
How the Top Tech Influencers Manage Email Overload
Neil Patel is a serial entrepreneur who has built two successful analytic companies: Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg. As well as being one of the most influential bloggers and top tech influencers, he is also an expert in online marketing, including email and influencer marketing. You can read his blog here, and if you like his inbox email management style, tweet him @NeilPatel.
Here's what this top tech influencer has to say about email management:
"I have filters set up in Gmail that help me organize the emails. As for junk emails, I use Unroll.me to get them out of my inbox. And as for emails that require scheduling, I have an assistant that helps me out. Once the emails are then organized, I go through them and respond."
Pat Flynn is an influential blogger, top tech influencer, and the guy behind the Smart Passive Income blog. He was laid off from his comfortable nine-to-five job, which set him on the path to start his own successful online business. You can read his inspirational story here, and if you like his email management style, tweet him @PatFlynn. You can also visit his YouTube channel and other social media pages.
Here's what this influencer has to say about work email:
"I typically get 300 to 500 emails every day, and my executive assistant, Jessica, helps me manage that. We've set up different folders in my inbox to segregate emails like Urgent, Less Urgent, Legal, Blog Comments, Favors, Testimonials, etc.
Jessica scans through the incoming emails and based on the nature of the email either responds to it herself or files it under the relevant folder for me to answer.
I check my inbox three to seven times a day. I first look at my 'Urgent' folder and respond to all the emails to reach "urgent inbox zero," which takes me about half an hour each day. Then, I clear my 'Less Urgent' folder in batches about three to four times a week. The key to a well-organized inbox is to prioritize. Not all emails are of equal importance. This means I only have to look at the emails I need to, when I want to."
Jason Lemkin is an entrepreneur turned VC and is currently the Managing Director of Storm Ventures. He is also one of the top tech influencers and the author behind the famous SaaStr blog, which was named one of the top 100 blogs for entrepreneurs by Forbes. Check out how his email management has transitioned since he became a VC, and you can tweet him @jasonlk.
Here's what Jason has to say about email management:
"As a CEO and founder, I found managing emails simple. A few each day required immediate attention. A few were things I had to do. But the rest I could simply delegate to my team, or were emails I only needed to monitor. Simply checking email was sufficient for me as a CEO. Standard Gmail could function as my task list as well to some large extent.
Now as a VC, it's so very different. It's a disaster. My goal is to meet eight to ten great founders a week. That requires hundreds of email interactions, tasks, and managing email longitudinally over weeks and months. I am unable to manage email accounts without a combination of software and human assistants. And even so, I miss meeting with great entrepreneurs solely because of not the incoming email volume, but the epic amounts of follow-up required.
My learning as a VC now is if you want to get a VC's attention, craft the best email possible with the highest quality social proof or intro. Put in the metrics, the pitch, why you are great. If it's the 28th email of the day or week 'wanting to get coffee' from someone I've never heard of, I simply lose the email. But I read every single one. So actually I'll meet with a lot of entrepreneurs without a warm intro if the pitch is clean, compelling, and data-driven."
Rand Fishkin is the co-founder of Moz & Inbound.org and a co-author of The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization, a comprehensive guide for digital marketers. He is one of the top tech influencers and an authority when it comes to content, search, and social media on the web and has been a prolific blogger. Check out how Rand manages his email and tweet him @randfish. Sadly, he doesn't have a Youtube channel, but you can catch up with his view on the nuances of the tech industry on the Moz blog.
Here's what Rand has to say about managing email accounts:
"My process is a modified version of the 'Inbox 0' philosophy, with the following general rules:
- I try to force everything in my life (personal and professional) through the single channel of email (and my calendar). I like to say that if it's not in email or on the calendar, it doesn't exist! That means no separate notes, no extra docs to worry about, no lost 'to-do' lists, just email and calendar. I put up a message on my about/contact pages on the web indicating that email is the best way to get in touch, and I've gone so far as to have my voicemail say I never check it and to email me instead (and I do the same with Facebook). One place for everything means so long as I'm up-to-date on email, I'm never behind.
- My Inbox 0 means I try to reach 0 messages at all times. Obviously, it's rare that I actually get there since some emails will say things like 'Rand, you need to build a 60-minute slide deck on SEO for bloggers for this conference' and that will take serious work before I can archive it. But the philosophy helps me know where I'm at and what I still need to get done at all times. It's also a very easy reference point for knowing when/whether I'm overwhelmed and need to say 'no' to anything new.
- I typically answer the most recent emails first, which may seem odd, but means that I can respond quickly to a great number of folks and leave the more complex items that need work at the bottom of my email for when I have the time.
- I use my mobile device to regularly archive/delete, so when I get to my desktop/laptop, the load isn't as great.
- I try to keep replies short and to-the-point, but never unfriendly and always with a bit of warmth. Email doesn't lend itself well to emotion, and I want everyone I'm communicating with to know that I'm doing so with a smile and with genuine hope that I can help them."
Gary is a tech industry hustler, and his TED talk will leave you inspired. Tweet him @garyvee or visit his YouTube channel (with almost three million subscribers and counting) to find out more about recent tech news and find motivation for business development.
"Pure effort, and my assistant keeps an eye on it daily to make sure anything super VIP gets to me."
Ann Handley is also one of the most influential bloggers and top tech influencers. She is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs. She has authored a new book, Everybody Writes, which has received rave reviews. She has a nice little trick for her inbox management. She doesn't have a YouTube channel like other top tech influencers, but you can catch up with her on almost all other social media platforms or tweet her @MarketingProfs.
Ann Handley has a lot to say about tech news but also reveals some of her secrets for email management:
"Here's what I do:
- Batch and tackle. Dedicate certain work hours to reading and responding to email. Or, if you're like me and you can't help reading it via your smartphone, at least try to group your responses. In other words, respond to a bunch of inquiries at the same time, versus answering them one by one, as they come in. Some people put auto-responders on their email, informing the sender that they respond to email only at certain times of the day. Doing so sets expectations, I suppose. But I'm not really a fan of the practice, both for practical reasons (with rare exceptions, it's unnecessary) and for philosophical reasons (why add to the amount of email in someone else's inbox while trying to manage your own?)
- Answer email in offline mode. If you batch and tackle your email responses, try doing so in offline mode; that way, the emails you send don't prompt an immediate response, distracting you from your batching efforts. I chanced on this approach when answering email on an airplane without wi-fi, and I realized how much easier and less distracting it was.
- Write simple, direct responses. I'm not trying to be rude, but I try to be brief — to respect both your time, and mine. As with any content, brevity and clarity trump long and meandering. Respect your reader's time as well as your own—and keep your responses direct and to the point. Use as many words as you need to reply in full to the sender, but not a keystroke more. In other words, a long-winded response is indulgent."
Amit Ranjan is the co-founder of Slideshare, the world's largest community for sharing presentations. He is also an angel investor, frequent guest speaker, and one of the top tech influencers on LinkedIn. You can tweet him @AmitRanjan.
"I've used email clients for the last ten years, and it has worked great for me. I POP my emails into it so they are always on my laptop. It is fast, has a clean UI and allows me to create deep nested folders.
I use extensions for keyboard shortcuts and canned replies… these extensions make email manipulation so much quicker.
I route all incoming emails into my inbox and try to follow the 'Inbox Zero Principle.' Inbox Zero forces a certain discipline and has worked well for me. (To know more about Inbox Zero, see this deck.)"
Gagan is a serial entrepreneur currently focusing on growing Sprig. He is a top tech influencer and the co-founder of the famous MOOC platform Udemy and the Growth Hackers Conference. See how Gagan flies through his inbox everyday and tweet him @GaganBiyani.
Here's what Gagan Biyani has to say about email management.
"I try to respond to every email, which is challenging but actually helps me reduce my inbox overload. The biggest way I do this is by forcing myself to make decisions on most inbound communication. It's so easy to accrue a set of 'to-do's in your inbox by delaying your decision-making.
Instead of letting my inbox devolve by putting off these emails for later, I force myself to make a decision. Am I interested in coffee? Yes, but I can't do it right now - therefore I say no. When will I be free for a meeting? I'm juggling a few things but know that 3pm on Thursday will work - therefore I just say Thursday at 3pm instead of waiting until a few more times are available.
It's a simple tactic and requires discipline, but it has helped me keep an inbox with <10 messages unread! ?"
"Although I have a few filters to move newsletters around, prioritize close family, and flag emails from my team — I generally suck at email. I simply get too much.
My process is generally brute force. I try to schedule time each morning to quickly filter, respond, or reroute emails. I realize it sucks, but the most important stuff tends to find its way to the top of the stack on its own."
"The way I handle email overload is more a commentary on the effectiveness of how people write emails. If the first line in Gmail reads like it'll be long winded with no clear indication that it has a single pertinent question, it doesn't get opened. I star it, mark as unread, and intend to come back to it later. Despite good intentions, I often don't.
If it has a short title, and asks a simple question - I respond within minutes and will go out of my way to help the person contacting me.
My future tactics for email organization will likely come from reading the rest of this post, most likely Rand's suggestion. ?"
Key Takeaways from the Top Tech Influencers
- If your incoming email volume is overwhelming, it's a good idea to get help from a professional VA. Click To Tweet
- Constantly archive/delete your emails so you have fewer items in your inbox at any given time. Click To Tweet
- Try to keep your replies short, sweet, and to the point to respect your and others' time. Click To Tweet
- Use a service like Unroll.me to unsubscribe from unwanted emails. Click To Tweet
- Use email filters and rules to group emails into relevant folders. Click To Tweet
- You can answer emails in batches or as they come; in either case it is important to keep a note of time spent. Click To Tweet
- Try answering emails in offline mode to avoid immediate responses. Click To Tweet
- Discipline is the key; force yourself to make decisions the first time you read an email rather than putting them off for later. Click To Tweet
- If you get similar emails, use canned responses to reply, but make sure not to sound like a robot. Click To Tweet
- Use keyboard shortcuts to navigate faster inside your email client. Click To Tweet
You can take points from the top tech influencers to manage your own email accounts. However, the responses made one thing very clear: everyone has a different way of handling their inbox, and what works for one might not for others.
What plan of action do you follow in your inbox? Let us know in the comments.
How do you manage email overload?
There are various ways to manage email overload. The expert advice is to keep your inbox clean. Manage your email accounts with a good email management software. If you are using an email client, make sure you know all the advanced features to fully utilize them.
How do you organize thousands of emails?
The best strategy to organize thousands of emails is to use labels and folders to keep everything in order and organized. Use an email client to manage multiple inboxes in one place.
How many work emails are too many?
More than 50 emails per day is too many. This has been proven with research. If an employee receives more than 50 emails per day, he or she will be overwhelmed and might not be able to handle them properly.
How do I clean out my inbox?
To clean your inbox there are a couple of things you need to do. These are:1) First of all, stop receiving more emails. You need to sign out so the inflow of email is stopped. 2) Filter the emails you would never read and do a mass delete.3) If you are using a good email client, use the additional features to filter and organize the emails.4) Organize your incoming emails with folders and labels.