It seems to be a universal collective that most small-business owners despise doing their emails. Constantly noticing small-biz owners stressing about their inundated emails and I thought it was time I intervened. You're welcome.
FOLDERS, FOLDERS, FOLDERS
If you're not already folder-ing emails then shame on you! This is a basic trick to make sure you keep a paper trail of everything that's been said and all in the same place. This saves heaps of time when you're trying to remember conversations or if you want to find a specific detail about something. It's also worth noting that you should be keeping nearly every email unless it's spam or totally irrelevant. And, if you folder things, your inbox will still look empty but you've kept everything for reference.
In Gmail they're called labels and Outlook they're folders but essentially it's a place to store similar emails to save you time.
Stop typing 'Kind regards' after every darn email body. It's the biggest time-waster known to email-er. Simply set up a signature so it has your preferred close and your name and ensure that it's loaded to display on every email. Having a signature is also a great place to include links to websites, socials and show your logo or tagline. This also keeps a consistent brand identity if you aren't using email templates.
STANDARD RESPONSE TEMPLATES
Stop repeating yourself! Open up a Google Docs and write down everything you find yourself saying more than once to different people. This could be a testimonial request or a note with an invoice. Write them all down and have them on hand ready to copy and paste when you come to do your emails. Make sure to personalise them where necessary - you don't want to sound like a robot to your clients.
Gmail also have a GREAT tool - called Gmail Canned Responses - which allows you to do this within the email software. Go to Settings>Advanced>Enable Templates>Compose a template>VOILA.
Nothing aggravates the general public more than being ignored. Going on holiday? Taking a break from work? You need to let your inbox know. Leave an out-of-office that states the dates that you won't be responding to emails to keep communication between clients sweet. This also stops pile-ups of emails like 'As per my last email...' and 'I still haven't heard a reply from such and such day'. Ugh.
Out-of-office's are also great if you are looking to seek more information from potential clients. If someone sends you an email asking to work with you but there's a ton more information you need before you can reply, think about setting up a form for new clients to fill out. This could even be a link to your website's contact form.
CLEAN UP (Outlook only)
This tool is an absolute lifesaver if you've returned from holiday to find emails coming out of your ears. This function helps get rid of any chase-up emails that seem to have a large occupancy in your inbox. Don't fear, it doesn't delete them, it puts them all into a single thread so you don't find yourself replying to each chase up email. It can also dramatically decrease your inbox by merging emails together (hurrah!).
CATEGORIES (Outlook only)
Categorising emails is a wondrous technique to make sure you do the awkward ones first and the easy ones last. A technique that is known (but not always executed) by all business owners. You know the phrase, 'tidy space, tidy mind'...This is how you get a tidy inbox.
Stop forgetting to reply to that important email. Flag (or star in Gmail) the emails that need urgent action to remind yourself to do it. Remember we are not machines, there is only so much our memory can do. By flagging emails, it ensures that you come back to them and you're not relying on your nogging for the reminder.