How to Save Hours Every Week by Becoming an Email Ninja


How to Save Hours Every Week by Becoming an Email Ninja

I’m very proud to be the owner of a small business that has grown quite a bit in the last few years. But that growth has – of course – brought more demands on my time.

We regularly review our systems and look for ways to work more efficiently, and recently I decided it was time for me to come up with a better way to handle that task we all spend so much time on each day: emails.

I’ve come up with a process that is saving me so much time; I can’t believe I didn’t do this ages ago.

Let’s see how it works …

Step 1: Like everything you do in business and life, step 1 is to decide that you’re ‘really going to do this’. If you’re just ‘pretending’ you’re going to do something about the time suck that is your email, here’s a cat video for you instead. It will be more fun.

Step 2: Learn the keyboard shortcuts in your email software. With the amount of time most of us spend at our computers, not having to take your hands away from the keyboard is a huge time saver. And I’m not just talking about cut, copy and paste. An email ninja can label, move and delete messages, reply and forward, archive, search and all sorts of other tricks, all from your keyboard.

Step 3: Set up a folder for each project you are working on and then a subfolder for each project called ‘work in progress’ (WIP).

Step 4: Put ‘clear emails’ on your things to do list each morning, but not at number 1. I usually put it at number 2 or number 3. And note, it’s not check emails, it’s clear emails.

Step 5: When you get to ‘clear emails’ on your list, clear your emails! What do I mean by ‘clear emails’? Your aim at the end of clearing your emails should be to have an empty (or almost empty) inbox. I have just four things I do after reading an email:

  • I delete it, if it’s junk or something that doesn’t warrant my attention.
  • I reply immediately and then archive the email in the folder for the relevant project.
  • If it requires more attention than a quick reply, I move the email to the WIP folder for the relevant project, to be tackled when I’m next scheduled to work on that book.
  • If the email creates a deadline for us, I put it in the WIP folder for the relevant project and put the deadline in my calendar.

If you think about it, what else can you do with an email? These options should just about cover everything.

Step 6: Schedule to clear your emails three or four times a day.

And … that’s it! Your new email system in six easy steps.

Here’s why this approach will save you so much time:

  • It puts you in control. You check your email when you’re ready, and only after you have done some ‘real’ work.
  • No more leaving an email sitting in your inbox and reading it five times over three days before you finally act on it. You’ll be acting on each email either in allocated email time or time specifically scheduled for that project or deadline.
  • No more randomly checking your email just in case something super urgent has come in (in all my years in business, I’ve seen very few issues that couldn’t wait a few hours).

Ninja tip: To cut down on your email deluge, pick up the phone! A three-minute phone call can often replace five or six emails.

So, what are you waiting for? Get to it!

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