Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).
Q: How can business owners avoid succumbing to email overload?
Charlie Gilkey, principal of Productive Flourishing in Portland, Oregon:
Email is simply the wrong communication medium for many business discussions, so, rather than starting with ways to get better at email, consider ways to limit the use of email. An email thread that spans past 4 responses or so, for instance, is much better to be moved to real-time communication; spending four hours back-and-forth in email for a three-minute conversation is nonsensical.
Another way to limit email overload is to limit its use for task management and delegation. Solutions such as Basecamp, Asana, Podio and so on make it as easy to delegate a task within the system as it is to email the person, which means that you’ve now avoided having your and your teammates’ work tied up into email.
Lastly, most modern email clients have either filters or rules that allow you to have some of your email pre-processed for you. Email messages that don’t require your attention right now can be automatically removed from your Inbox to a @not-urgent folder; high priority email messages can be bolded and placed front and center; messages of which you are cc’d or bcc’d on can be displayed differently. Spending 30 minutes to figure out and implement some of the productivity features of your preferred email client is well worth the time.
Brent Beshore, CEO and owner of AdVentures in Columbia, Missouri:
If you feel like you’re constantly replying to email and not getting anything done, here are a few tips to help you manage:
1) Batch. Don’t be constantly checking to see who or what is coming through your inbox. Turn off your push notifications. Only check your email at certain intervals throughout the day. This will allow you to focus and work more effectively.
2) Create a system. Some emails can be disregarded. Some are time-sensitive. When I read an email, I make one of three decisions: I immediately reply to it, open and minimize it, reminding me to reply later, or I disregard it.
3) Don’t be verbose. If you have to write more than six sentences, just call the person.
4) Be overly thoughtful. Written tone is tough. Jokes can easily be misunderstood, and sarcasm can be mistaken. Be thoughtful and go beyond what you think it is needed.
Pablo Palatnik, CEO of ShadesDaddy.com in Aventura, Florida.
The first thing I do every morning is check my email account. With so much email overload, the best way to get organized is to filter email through different folders or topics, and to prioritize the emails -- let’s say in this case, Gmail, by adding the ‘star’ and getting those out of the way first by setting up a Priority Inbox. You need to find the best process that works for you to ensure you know which emails are priorities for both reading and responding and how to filter and prioritize those emails so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.