For many people, email has become an essential part of running their business. Unfortunately, personal email management can be quite complex when you have hundreds of emails arriving daily and thousands of email contacts. For this reason, many business owners and entrepreneurs have begun using virtual administrative assistants for email management.
To make the most of a virtual administrative assistant, it is important to develop email management techniques that streamline the process of handling incoming and outgoing email. In this article we share some email time management tips and tricks to help you achieve that goal and become more productive!
Prepare yourself to let go!
Some business people become obsessed with reading every email and develop some “unusual” habits for organising their emails. If you intend to hire a personal email assistant, be prepared to give up some control of your email and to take on a new organisational style.
You should prepare yourself to give some level of control to your virtual assistant. Once the new email management techniques are in place and your e-mail virtual assistant is handling your inbox on your behalf, you will be amazed by how much time you save.
For business people who still want to maintain full control over some aspect of their incoming email, the answer is simple — set up an additional email account that is completely under your control. This email account will have an address that is not on your website or business cards and will only be disclosed to a limited number of very close friends. The vast majority of emails should flow through your public email address and be sorted by your virtual assistant.
Explain your current structure to your virtual assistant
As mentioned earlier, some people develop some curious habits for organising their emails! You will need to explain your current email organisational structure to your virtual assistant so they understand where emails should be placed.
When reviewing your current structure, you may decide that some elements need to be overhauled and simplified. If you have dozens of folders holding emails, it is a sign that your system may have become too complex and needs to be reviewed.
Limit yourself to one of four actions
Going forward, you and your virtual assistant must perform one of four actions with every email opened:
1. Reply – Reply to emails which need an immediate response and for which you are the appropriate person to give the best response.
2. Archive – The email contains some particularly valuable information which you will need for future reference.
3. Forward for urgent attention – The email requires a response from a member of staff, consultant or business partner. Forward the email immediately.
4. Delete – Everything else must be deleted!
It may be difficult to stick to these four actions initially, but eventually they will become second nature and will help you save a huge amount of time.
Set up rules for your virtual assistant to follow
To obtain the most possible value out of a personal email assistant you should establish a clear set of rules for them to follow. These rules will inform the assistant how they should deal with specific emails and the information they contain. For example:
Appointments and Meetings – You may ask your virtual assistant to place any appointment or meeting details mentioned in emails directly into your calendar. You can also ask your assistant to confirm appointments and resolve scheduling conflicts on your behalf.
Request for Support – If an email comes in with a request for support, you could have your virtual assistant forward it to the support team, add it to support desk software and/or deal with it on your behalf.
Sales related emails – You may want sales emails to be forwarded on to a specific person or arrange for your VA to handle them based upon a set of agreed responses for certain sales enquiries.
Personal emails – You may wish to create specific rules for personal emails.
Other requests – You can create scripted replies for a huge range of questions that you receive via email. Your virtual assistant can immediately take care of any requests or questions that you have answered previously.
The best way to formulate these rules is to examine the type of emails that you typically receive. Go through each email and if you spot a type of email that you frequently receive, jot down a scripted response or specific action for it.
Have your virtual assistant clear your inbox at specific times
It is useful to have your virtual assistant process your inbox at regular times each day. That way you know that when you open the email client at 3pm, your assistant has already processed the emails you don’t need to look at. Opening your email client and seeing 15 emails instead of 150 is a liberating feeling!
Use colour coding
Colour coding can help speed up your response to important emails. Have you virtual assistant mark important emails with specific colours and sort different types of emails with different colours. Consider asking your virtual assistant to perform certain actions when they receive an urgent email — like calling you via Skype or sending a message.
Use automatic filters
On top of the manual filtering performed by your virtual assistant, consider asking your VA to set and manage filters to route certain types of emails. Perhaps you want all emails with a certain sender or subject line sent directly to you, or forwarded elsewhere.
Give your virtual assistant the power to delete!
Once you have your email handling guidelines in place and your virtual assistant has demonstrated they can perform your specific email sorting tasks appropriately — give them the power to delete. This will save you even more time as it clears additional email clutter from your inbox.
Once you have taken these steps, you will be amazed by how much time you can save each day. Your email handling will also be much more efficient — colleagues, customers and business partners will obtain a response much faster and your communications will be firmly under control.
Just remember — it is important to establish a framework for email responses and your email organisational structure that your email virtual assistant can follow. By using that framework and the simple email time management tips mentioned above, you can enjoy an incredibly productive year!
Thanks for reading our article on email time management tips! We hope you found it useful and gave you some great ideas for being more productive with a virtual assistant. If you would like to know more about our virtual email assistant services or what to look for in the best virtual assistant service call us on 0800 994 9016 or click here to request a free consultation.