How to Keep Incoming Email from Taking Over Your Business

When I got my first e-mail account in 1997, I was so paper-minded I printed every incoming message. Today, that would cost me 1,000 sheets of paper a week.

Not only does the contemporary business owner get as much junk mail per day as her mother did in a month, but our inboxes are also overflowing with e-newsletters, social networking updates, event invitations in quadruplicate, and notes from well-meaning friends and family who think e-mail is the best thing that ever happened to small talk.

You feel like hiring an extra secretary just to deal with it.

Before you post an ad for that position, though:

  • Get your spam filter up to date. Consider requiring self-verification from first-time senders.
  • Get rid of defaults that “pass” anything addressed to “…@[your Web site]” irrespective of prefix. This will make it harder for spam mailers to “hit” your box. Don’t worry about losing messages; human senders who don’t double-check your address upon receiving “undeliverable” replies probably weren’t that interested to begin with.
  • Don’t post direct e-mail links online; write your address as “me[at],” or require senders to manually copy a graphic image before the message goes through. (Don’t, however, use lengthy e-mail forms with a dozen required fields. They look so time-consuming that they scare off legitimate senders.)
  • Learn to use the “rules” function on your e-mailbox. See if it can be programmed to completely delete certain messages.
  • Think twice before signing up for “daily digests” on social networking sites and discussion boards. They may take more time than you can spare, especially if (like me) you hate deleting things unread.
  • Also think twice before signing up for e-newsletters. Ask yourself honestly which ones you’ll really read or find useful.
  • For those messages that do reach your inbox, immediately delete any not worth following up on. Sort the others into folders—for example, “Answer Promptly,” “Newsletters to Read Friday Afternoon,” “Relevant to Project XY”—and deal with one category at a time. Your work will progress faster and more efficiently.
  • Try not to check your box more than twice a day. Constantly incoming messages interrupt your flow of thought and distract from the task of the moment.
  • Leave the “unsubscribe” link alone when you receive a “newsletter” you never requested. As often as not, “unsubscribing” only signals that your mailbox is active and therefore fair game.
  • Finally, remember that in most cases nothing terrible will happen if you do miss a message.

E-mail is a wonderful servant. Just don’t let it enslave you!

Katherine Swarts is a guest blogger for EggStream Marketing, offering business tips and time management advice. Her expert writing services are a part of her business, Spread the Word Commercial Writing. “Anything Worth Writing Is Worth Writing Right”
Certified WBE


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