Email isn’t important. Your inbox can’t possibly have any effect on your working life, productivity, or motivation. That’s the thought, correct? A full inbox is such a small problem that it’s barely an issue at all. Millions of professionals probably think that way, and maybe you do, too. They are wrong, however, and so are you.
It’s 2017. Your email inbox is a significant percentage of your correspondence. That’s how we communicate with each other when we aren’t busy texting, using Gchat, or connecting via Slack and similar apps. A cluttered inbox does affect your productivity, not to mention your peace of mind. At the very least, it makes you appear unorganized and overwhelmed, even if you’re not.
Consider how much time you spend thinking about your inbox, specifically the unanswered emails waiting for you to either respond or delete them. It’s an easy task to put off, but it gets worse the longer you wait. You’re constantly behind and struggling to catch up with yourself. It’s a vicious cycle. Every Friday, you swear you’ll finish dealing with your correspondence during the next week, but come Monday, you’re buried even deeper in the weeds.
What you don’t realize is that you’re actually sending a message each time you fail to respond to an email. It’s just not the message you want to send because it suggests that you’re unreliable, you don’t respond quickly, and you don’t communicate well. That’s what coworkers, clients, and prospects think when they don’t hear from you.
Dealing with the issue on a day-to-day basis only works when you’re already on top of your email. You’ll never catch up if you take that approach with the backlog. Answering a message or two in between your essential tasks won’t even put a dent in the problem.
Instead, block out a few hours for yourself and diligently go through your email. Don’t put off a single task. Even if your response involves nothing more than saying “thank you” or listing your pay rate, answer it during this period. After that, carve out time each day to respond to the messages in your inbox.
By staying on top of your inbox, you send a better message. Timely answers with thoughtful, informative content reveal a true professional who’s reliable, quick on the draw, and always prepared. Isn’t that a better response than apathy?