Startup Tip 31: Simple ways to control email and do business building tasks instead

Email can easily suck up a lot of time that needs to be spent on business building tasks. Probably 90% of time you spend on email is not crucial to building your business. It may even be holding your business back if you are prone to procrastination. (Email is a great excuse to procrastinate while looking like you are really working!)


Implement one thing today that will reduce the time you spend on email. (Or if you are feeling daring, make it 2 or 3!)

Here are a few tips you can implement NOW:

Stop email interrupting your productive time

There are hundreds of articles about managing email on the internet, but here are a few things you can easily implement:

  • Don’t check email first thing in the morningIt is an unproductive start to the day. Make sure the first thing you do is essential to moving your business forward. That way you will feel great because you have done something constructive AND you will have avoided the procrastination trap – for now!
  • Turn off the automatic receive function in your email client.  That way, you won’t be distracted by those little pings as your email hits your inbox.
  • Make a set time to check emails. No doubt about it, this requires self-discipline. The best option is if you only check and respond once a day, but if you can’t bear waiting that long, schedule in times where you will check your email, rather than drifting to it in between other more important tasks.

Manage email once it’s on your machine

The aim here is to make sure you are only spending time on emails that really need your attention. Again there is a lot written about this and here are some actions you can take:

  • Cut down the amount of email you receive in the first place. Unsubscribe from newsletters. I don’t know about you but I subscribe to them thinking I’ll read them but I rarely do. I might as well get rid of them
  • If you don’t want to unsubscribe, create a filter to direct newsletters into a folder other than your inbox. You can use this technique for notifications too. As soon as I implemented this for Twitter notifications then email in my inbox reduced by half.
  • Stop self-inflicted email. You can combine the previous two tips. Direct all your newsletters & notifications into a folder and then unsubscribe from them once a week.
  • Set up folders to archive important emails. Then they aren’t hanging around in your inbox and drawing your attention.
  • Find a way to create a task out of emails that need action. Put them in your task list and then archive as above.

Further Reading:

Tim Ferriss is an email ninja. He outsources his email. You might not want to be as brutal but he is an outstanding example of how much you can actually control email.

The other outstanding productivity expert is Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. He has written a succinct guest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog about how to be an email ninja.

And if you need a laugh, you might want to check out the Procrastination Flowchart.

Join the Conversation

Have your say in the comments – or use them to create a little bit of extra motivation and accountability to get your action task for today done.

Or join us on Facebook  or Twitter.

Image used under Creative Commons license courtesy of  Social Media Online Classes


  1. I followed my own advice and was able to cut down my inbox from almost 4000 emails to less than 1400. I’ve also set up folders which different types of emails go to automatically. It now takes me much less time to check them and I am less likely to miss anything important.

    I’d be interested in hearing about any techniques that any of you use and how they work for you. I’m on a mission now!

  2. One thing that I’ve found can help is making phone calls instead of sending certain emails. If you need a quick response, or are looking to gauge a potential customer / supplier’s interest then a phone call can be immediate, and you’re not waiting for the email to come back that could take hours / days / weeks or just not come back at all.

    • Absolutely. Great points there Jack

      And have you ever tried to set a date for a meeting or coffee by email? 10 emails later… or 1 phone call and it’s done!


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