It’s no secret I have spent the better part of this year organizing and trying to come up with solutions for running my business from home. I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone who is starting their own business or who works from a home that demands your attention in other ways (like in the form of one terribly energetic toddler, in my case), is to take the time to really get yourself organized. For me, that means having a planner where I can schedule every part of my life. I am talking blog posts, meetings, photo sessions, meal planning– the whole shebang. I also have found that thoughtfully preparing my inbox for the influx of e-mails has gone FAR in helping me answer things in a timely manner, remembering e-mails perhaps I don’t have the time to answer but definitely need to soon, and more.
There have been times I have opened by inbox to hundreds and hundreds of e-mails and I honestly would consider crying, and would do anything BUT filter through the mess. There have also been days when I would spend the time trying to weed through coupons, sale promotions and spam to find the e-mails that mattered. I would often read them, forget about them and they would get pushed deep down under hundreds of fresh e-mail junk. I started referring to it as the black hole, and thinking about dealing with said black hole, became of source of major anxiety. So finally, I decided to spend an entire day dedicated to tackling my inbox and coming up with a better solution. This may not work for everyone, but it has definitely worked for me and has helped me tremendously this year.
Step One: Unsubscribe from everything. I mean every. single. thing. If, after you have unsubscribed you think you really want to be receiving emails from your favorite companies, you can go back and subscribe again. The key here is to clear it all out in one fell swoop and reassess how much you need to have those reminders of Gap sales every 5 hours. If you are like me, I was subscribed to hundreds of things. I used unroll.me to unsubscribe from EVERYTHING in under 2 minutes. Friends, I was subscribed to 410 companies,businesses, etc. No wonder I was getting so much junk in my inbox!
Step Two: Consolidate e-mail addresses. At one point I had five e-mail addresses: personal, business, blog, etsy shop, and a second personal one. I decided to cut it down to just two. One for my photography clients and business and a personal e-mail for family members and subscriptions. It is so nice having less to manage, and knowing that when I open an inbox I am going to be dealing with (and only with) things that pertain to that e-mail address. Your goal here is really to simplify in all areas!
Step Three: Create folders. This. This is the biggest thing that has changed the way I assess e-mails. I categorize things and place them into folders, so I know what to do with them. Some of my most used folders are Answer Immediately, Hold, Inquiries, Upcoming Weddings, Bookmark, etc. Some e-mails I know I need to deal with right away, but I don’t have a second right at that exact moment, go in the Answer Immediately folder and I always, always make sure that one is empty every single day. If the e-mail isn’t as urgent, or I want time to thoughtfully reply, I place it in Hold. For new client inquiries, I place the correspondence in “Inquiries”, so I can be sure I have taken care of and answered all the questions for potential bride & groom’s.
I also love my Bookmark folder. There I place anything I know I want to be able to find again in the future. Sometimes that means funny e-mails, recipes or blog posts from around the Internet. To begin utilizing folders, take an inventory of the types of e-mails you receive. My most recent folder has been for 2016 clients who have booked with me. This helps me keep track of everyone with upcoming events. Begin creating a list of things and tweak it from there. I highly recommend the Answer Immediately and Hold folders for everyone!
Organizing myself changed the way I do business, and now I don’t eat an entire bag of Reese’s candy instead of answering my e-mails, in fear of the anxiety it was sure to cause. Do you have any tips on how to organize your inbox for me? We are always open to finding even better ways to improve! If so, please share with us in the comments.