Learning inbox management tips for executive assistants to cut your time on each client’s emails is important. According to a McKinsey analysis report, an average professional spends 28% of their workday reading and answering emails. That means you spend about 13 hours a week managing emails for each client.
But we also know that you would want to save time on each email so you can sign more clients. The following tips will help you manage all your clients’ inboxes more efficiently.
1. Develop an Inbox Strategy
Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." The concept also applies to your inbox management tasks as an executive assistant.
The success of all the other tips we will discuss depends on your email management strategy. So, if you haven't crafted one already, now is the time to create a solid plan for managing your client's emails.
You will need a unique strategy for each client based on their goals. For example, client A may want you to help them reach the coveted inbox zero target. Another client may want you to use your email management skills to help them achieve their targeted email marketing ROI.
Your job as an executive assistant is to help every client achieve their specific goals. Therefore, it is best first to understand the client's unique needs and then familiarize yourself with the kind of emails the client receives or mostly sends.
All this will help you develop a unique inbox strategy that aligns with each client's needs. The strategy you adopt will inform many decisions you make. For example, the labels or filters you apply to the emails.
Note: the inbox strategy you develop should not favor one client at the expense of the others. So, ensure that your strategy reflects your schedule and working hours agreed upon with each client.
2. Automate Your Inbox Management
You have every reason to be grateful for being an executive assistant during such technological advancement. There is a technology that allows you to perform almost all your tasks efficiently.
For example, email management software such as Maildrop will help you organize and manage your clients' inboxes by reducing spam. Other email management tools allow you to automate tasks like sending bulk emails.
These tools also help you track customer emails and better organize your client's inbox. Therefore, you can keep hold of vital email correspondence to reference important customer communications.
An email management automation tool also allows you to manage multiple email accounts. That blends well with your idea of working with several clients.
3. Use Folders, Labels, and Filters
Like your office desk, your client's inbox requires some organization. Otherwise, it will be so disorganized and cluttered that you can't finish anything.
You can employ the same organization strategy in your office space to get the client's inbox in order. For example, an email folder is great for classifying documents in your office.
Typically, your email already has predefined folders like inbox, sent, drafts, spam, junk, and scheduled folder. However, you can create other inbox management folders like:
Action folder – for emails that require your action soon. Adding a little reminder on your schedule related to emails in this folder would also be best.
Waiting folder – for emails you have sent to customers waiting for a response or another expected action. For example, an email that reminds a customer to sign an agreed contract.
Project folder – for emails related to significant projects your client is undertaking.
Reference folder – for important emails you’ll need when communicating with the client's customers in the future.
Another basic inbox management best practice is assigning labels to your email. For example, you can add the tag "urgent" to an email placed in your action folder that requires your client's attention. Moreover, you can add a "to read" label to an important email you feel you may need to read later when you are less busy.
You can also create email filters to organize your clients' inboxes better. Filters help you automate your email management to save you trouble in the future.
For example, imagine a scenario where an important customer or supplier email finds itself in the client's spam folder. You can create a filter that ensures future emails from this contact will instead be considered primary emails.
To do this, you need to open the email you need to filter and click the three dots in its top right corner. From the drop-down menu, click the filter messages like this option and follow the other prompts to create a filter.
4. Keep the Inbox Tidy
As they love to say in the movies, "it's time to take the trash out." You are not done organizing the client's inbox until you have dealt with emails that clutter and take up all the space.
Since you may require some emails in the future, creating a "deleted items" folder would be a better strategy than deleting permanently. At least here, you will know where to find them when their use arises.
Also, filtering certain emails will help you minimize your work to clean up your inbox. Classifying certain emails as spam, promotional, or social means they never have to find their way into the client's inbox. For example, emails in the spam folder will automatically get deleted probably after a month.
5. Set Email Notifications
Some people see an alarm clock as a tool to wake them at the required time. It would explain why most people hate it for doing its job. But the alarm is also a convenience that eliminates the need to check your watch to confirm your wake-up time constantly.
The same can be said of email notifications. It is not that you can't keep refreshing the client's inbox to check for any new email that requires your attention. It is that you choose the peace of mind to keep working on other tasks while the "email alarm" keeps an eye on your inbox.
And as your reliable alarms, the notifications alert you whenever a new message requires your action. The notifications will prove more than useful, especially when managing multiple inboxes.
Note: you can set the email notifications on Gmail or Outlook setting tabs. You can configure it to receive alerts on your phone via text message or email.
6. Color Code Email Messages
Nothing screams as important as a color-highlighted text or message. Color-coding emails to highlight their importance serves as a good reminder.
A code means that each color has its own interpretation. Each color you choose should highlight the priority level of the respective email. For example, if you color certain emails red, your interpretation would be that they are the most urgent ones.
Color codes are good reinforcements to your email labels. At least when you have the colors, it will not take long to trace an email you tagged as urgent. You just have to use the color representing urgency to trace that email.
Color codes also simplify the process of auditing your day's work. When managing multiple client inboxes, it is wise to scheme over every client's inbox to ensure you have completed your day's to-do list.
Where to Learn More Inbox Management Tips
Some of these tips will make more sense when you talk to someone who tells you how they use them to be better executive assistants. And you can meet that someone by joining the Royal VA Community. Join today to hang out with other VAs as they share their experiences in the industry.