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Don't Let Email Derail Your Sales Time Management


Today's guest article is from Audrey Thomas, a "Lean Office" expert who coaches & speaks on how to manage massive amounts of email, stay ahead of projects and To Do Lists, and become more intentional and productive at work. According to Audrey,  "Every email is a decision waiting to be made."


5 Strategies to Get in Control of Your Inbox


The average individual sends/receives 125 emails a day. That's 600+ per week. No wonder companies are concerned with overloaded and at-capacity servers. Your email Inbox is one of the easiest places to have clutter in your office because only you and Mr. IT know what's hiding there.

Using Lean Office's 5S technique to better manage your email Inbox breaks down into these five steps.

  1. Sort: If your email management program offers a  "rules" feature, decide which emails can be presorted into folders so they don't even end up in your Inbox. Think about non-time sensitive emails such as HR notices, Professional Association newsletters, notifications from social media, and announcements from vendors such as airlines, hotels and department stores.

    You'll feel more in-control knowing that these items are no longer allowed to interrupt your focus with non-urgent business.

  2. Straighten: Set up a file folder structure that mirrors the project folders sitting on your desk. Filing an email and retrieving it later will be much easier if you've carefully chosen the proper name of your folders. Avoid creating too many file folders which will only dissuade you in the future from using them and encourages you to leave emails in your Inbox.

  3. Sweep: Once a week go through your Inbox and delete the emails that are no longer needed. It is estimated that 50% of read email can be deleted immediately.  If an email represents a future action, create a task for it (if you use Outlook), removing it from your Inbox. If it's something related to a future appointment, insert the email or drag it to your calendar.

  4. Standardize: For Outlook users, did you know you can color-code emails coming into your Inbox? You can even color code emails sent only to you (no one else who was cc'd or bcc'd on it). I recently met someone who even color codes the emails coming from her boss! Here's how to do that.
    • Highlight the new email without opening it.
    • Click on Tools > Organize
    • Click on "Using Colors" in the menu that opens up.
    • Assign a color.

  5. Sustain: Maintenance doesn't happen automatically. Giving your Inbox attention must occur on a regular basis. Allow yourself time each Friday afternoon to apply these 5S techniques to your Inbox.

It's such a great feeling returning to your office on Monday morning, knowing your Inbox isn't filled with unnecessary clutter.

Question: How do manage email so it doesn't decrease your sales productivity? Share your comments!


© Audrey Thomas. All rights reserved. To learn relevant best practices of productive sales managers AND to receive a free copy of Audrey’s Productivity Passport visit www.OrganizedAudrey.com.

Jill KonrathJill Konrath is an internationally recognized sales strategist. As author of two bestselling books, SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies, she's a frequent speaker at sales meetings and conferences. For more fresh ideas, download her free Prospecting Toolkit.


I think it's best to clear your Inbox out regularly, using the same rules as applied when you had an old-fashioned in tray. If you can deal with it quickly, do so. File things in the relevant folder. I file reading in a Read Later folder, Follow ups in a follow up folder, and attach reminders to e-mails that need action by a specific date.
Posted @ Wednesday, November 28, 2012 6:56 AM by Moira
Thanks for the Organize tool, never thought of that. By the way, just finish reading your book, it is a super great book. :)
Posted @ Friday, November 30, 2012 10:29 PM by Kent
Check out Sanebox which does a lot of the sorting for you so you can focus on the important emails first.www.sanebox.com
Posted @ Sunday, December 02, 2012 7:22 PM by Michael Smith
Emails are a constant challenge for entrepreneurs. We should clean our inbox so that we won't miss important messages.
Posted @ Wednesday, December 05, 2012 12:52 AM by Amber King
Great post - some more new year's resolutions to add. 
I will also turn off Outlook for a few hours each day in 2013 to let me focus on my priority work.
Posted @ Wednesday, December 19, 2012 3:50 PM by Colin G
Handle each email only once.  
Read it then 
1. Delete 
2. Forward for handling 
3. File 
4. Answer and then file, delete, forward as needed. 
5. Schedule a future task then repeat above steps at the future date.
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 5:52 PM by Ed
Many of us know that we could be managing our time more effectively; but it can be difficult to identify the mistakes that we're making, and to know how we could improve. 
When we do manage our time well, however, we're exceptionally productive at work. I use Replicon's time tracking software, to manage my time and tasks more perfectly. After started using this software, my stress level has completely decreased. 
Posted @ Wednesday, September 04, 2013 4:12 AM by Lydia.aram
Colin G has nailed it above. There is no reason why you should ever have read email in your inbox. It is a sign of procrastination, indecision, or, worse yet, laziness. 
Email is always 1 of 3 things: 
1. Junk = delete 
2. Reference = file away for use when working on that project/task in the future  
3. Call to Action = create a task with a "do" date (better to say when you will "do" something than when it is "due") 
It generally takes less than a few seconds to decide which one of the three above categories an email falls in and only a few more to process it accordingly.  
Most people either don't and say "I'll get to it later then delete it" (which is classic procrastination) or "I don't know what to do with this; I'll figure it out later" (which is indecisiveness). The only other thing it could be is the "I don't want to deal with this now" response which is laziness - the worst reaction you can have since you are getting paid to deal with work email
Ask yourself which 1 of the 3 things each email you receive is, then process it accordingly. Your productive and peace of mind will skyrocket!
Posted @ Saturday, January 04, 2014 7:29 AM by Mark Kosoglow
I loved your all 5 techniques to manage emails to save my time and also increase the sales time. 
Thanks for sharing..!!
Posted @ Monday, April 21, 2014 3:48 AM by pameliamacy
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