You arrive in the office at 8:00AM ready to work. Your to-do list is full of high value tasks that will help your business scale and grow. You fire up your laptop and the all too familiar "ping" of your inbox serenades you...drawing you into the depths of mundane tasks and low level activities. The next thing you know, it's noon and your to-do list is still there untouched. 

For most business owners email is a massive problem. In a survey conducted by my company Maui Mastermind, out of 353 United States business owners, 57 percent cited email as their single biggest time waste. 

The Radicati Group's "Email Statistics Report, 2015-2019" shared that the average businessperson receives 88 email messages a day. Now, if each email takes two minutes to read and respond to that would take almost three hours out of your work day! Imagine what it would look like if each email took five or ten minutes to respond to. 

It's easy to lose an entire day in your inbox with little or no progress on the high level tasks. 

So how do you take back your inbox?

This first suggestion is not one that I personally suggest. While some business executives swear by the freeing nature of simply deleting all the emails in their inbox and starting fresh, it doesn't really fix the problem and you will find yourself having to declare "bankruptcy" every few months just to stay on top. 

I instead suggest a three part system to keep on top of your emails. 

Set Boundaries

For me, every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I refrain from checking email until at least 11am, giving me a solid 2-3 hours to get much higher value work done. I put this time into my calendar as an appointment so that the rest of my team knows what to expect. If you do the same, you will want to coach your team about what you are doing and why, asking for their support to help you produce more for the company.

Looking at the stats from our business coaching clients, odds are that if you check email early, you'll have a high proportion of your days derailed by urgent, but low value fires that could have waiting 1-3 hours for you to handle.

Turn Your Inbox Over To Your Assistant

Another trick that I use to keep on top of my inbox is to hand over the reigns to my personal assistant. She is able to go through my box and handle meeting requests and admin questions, as well as handling spam emails or archiving emails that require no action or review on my part. That way, the eighty eight emails a day end up being a more manageable five or ten by the time she is done.

Develop A System

And lastly, my most powerful weapon against declaring "email bankruptcy" is to use a system of importance in all team correspondence. At Maui, we use the "1, 2, 3" subject line system. Here's how it works. Simply start off your subject line with a 1, 2, or 3.

  • "1" means this is time sensitive and important email that you need to take action on right away.

  • "2" means that you have to take some action, but it isn't an urgent/important matter. Handle it in a reasonable time frame.

  • "3" means no action is required on the part of the recipient, simply scan the email for content when convenient.

This allows you to scan your inbox quickly to know which emails need your immediate attention and which ones can wait till your down time.