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Did you know that professionals spend an average of 2.6 hours each day just checking and managing their email? That’s a whopping 13 hours per week just managing your own inbox. Imagine having to also manage your Executive’s busy email. That number can easily double or triple! Then, next thing you know, you’re left with little time and energy to take care of high-value responsibilities that matter more.
Each correspondence you have with your boss should be handled deliberately. But the challenge is, how do you do this when their inbox is flooded everyday? Here are five things you can do to manage your Executive’s inbox effectively.
The value of going in with a strategy is it creates a “true North” that your action plans will be based on. Your true North is your main goal and it can be any of the following: zero inbox, top-tier labeling, or even easier navigation for your Executive. Start by asking your Executive how they use their email and what their working style is. Some of them might prefer to use it as a to-do list, while others designate emails as their primary communication channel.
An inbox strategy is all about knowing what their inbox currently looks like, understanding what goals you need to have to best serve your Executive, and identifying what changes you need to implement.
Once you get access to their inbox, it would be beneficial to perform an audit. This is a great way to get a pretty good idea of the types of emails your Executive receives – which usually range from personal, promotional, news, and business emails. Afterward, you would need to organize and sort their emails based on their respective categories.
Translating this into a visual illustration can help you discuss the next steps with your Executive better, and ask them to identify which type of email they need to receive and act on versus ones that are unnecessary. This is also the perfect opportunity to clarify with them which emails you can act on, so you know exactly how to navigate their email management.
Based on the audit result and discussion with your Executive, you should be able to easily label every email in their inbox. Implementing a labeling system can work really well in establishing clarity to an otherwise crowded inbox, and can improve coordination with your Executive.
There are two ways you can approach labeling:
Status-based. This is meant to guide the Executive on which emails need a specific response from them without having to ask you. Here’s an example of what it looks like:
You can opt to add or remove labels depending on what your Executive’s daily schedule looks like, but the idea is to make it easy for your boss to navigate their inbox.
Action-based. This labeling system is meant to guide you on how your Executive wants you to sort their email without having to explicitly instruct you. Here are a couple of label examples:
This makes delegating and coordinating easier not just for you but for them, too.
One of the reasons Executives don’t want to give their executive assistants access to their emails is because important information might get deleted accidentally. This is a very valid concern that executive assistants need to always be mindful of.
That’s why we’ll share a trade secret that allows you to achieve that coveted zero inbox without the risk of losing an important email — Archiving.
There’s no specific ground rule when it comes to archiving and it depends on how your Executive works. If they don’t look for or act upon emails that are a month old, then you can declutter anything within that date range. However, if they tend to look for old correspondence, then it is recommended that you discuss a parameter that your Executive feels comfortable with.
You can also sort your archive categories every year, so you can easily organize your archived emails.
Email management is a simple but high-value task that shouldn’t be underestimated. It involves navigating priorities and your relationship with your boss, so it pays to approach it with a strategic mindset.
The good news is, calendaring is at least one area that can almost be entirely automated these days. With tools like Cabinet, you can take the tedious work out of scheduling. So no matter what, at least you can have more time for email management.
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