Quick Tips for Taming Your Inbox

Does your inbox keep you up at night? Do you wake up each day, knowing that hundreds of unread emails are piling up with no end in sight? On Point Dental Consulting CEO Andrea Greer gives us some dental office manager tips for taming that inbox.

Some tasks are like pets. You know the ones. They bark at us until we give them attention; if we try to ignore them, they make a mess; and when we do give them the attention they need, the return can be a lot of love!

Well, love in the form of that great feeling that nothing fell through the cracks! One such pet-like task is our email inbox. I personally have three email addresses that I monitor regularly. Two for work, and one personal. When my inboxes are down to zero unread emails, I am a happy camper. But how do I manage this?

Taming Your Inbox

Tip No. 1

The first step is the setup. I have all three accounts on individual tabs on my desktop. Moreover, and this is important, they are always open in the same order. This way I don’t have to navigate to a page and log in multiple times a day.

I also have the number notifications turned on, so I always know how many unread emails I have in each account.

As a side note, I do not have a sound notification turned on for my emails because I have found this to be distracting — if I am working on a blog post for RevenueWell, I want to get it completed without interruption!

Tip No. 2

The next strategy I have is to spend 30 minutes in the morning on just my email inbox. I quickly mark the emails I know are ads, but I am not ready to unsubscribe, and delete them.

Then, I open the emails that I want to unsubscribe from and get that done.

Next, I read the emails that are from mass campaigns or blog feeds, or ads I want to check. I try to read these emails in the order I think I am most interested, and if I find that I am no longer interested in receiving them, I unsubscribe. Logically, unsubscribing helps keep my inbox cleaner in the future. After I have read these emails, I delete them or file them if they contain information I may want to reference later.

Lastly, I respond to the emails that require my attention, then delete or file.

Tip No. 3

So, what to do with emails I know I need to keep? I have a series of folders and subfolders just like a file cabinet. My folders are labeled Administrative, Clients, and Marketing. You might have folders labeled Resubmits, Marketing, Continuing Education, Credentialing, and HIPAA. I would advise against creating folders that are specific to patient names, as this is a HIPAA violation.

Set up your folders so they are intuitive to all, not just yourself. Ideally, the folders and some guidelines about what goes in them would be detailed in your Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manual for future reference. As you open and respond to emails, file them immediately.

A Clutter-Free Day

After I am done with my morning 30 minutes of belly scratching my pet, emptying my inbox, I get moving on with my day. I do revisit after lunch and once more at the end of my workday.

I know a lot of people whose inbox emails number in the hundreds, and even the thousands. So how do you get through it? If you normally spend 15 minutes each morning dealing with emails, perhaps commit to 30 minutes to work through the backlog of old emails. Some email programs will let you mass select the sender to delete — do that!

The key is to find a time that works, limit yourself to 25-30 minutes of email cleanup, then move along with your day. Even though that does not seem like much time, you may be surprised how quickly you can get through those old emails and achieve Inbox Ground Zero! An email inbox is only a digital version of the desktop plastic tray labeled "In." And when that box is empty, your mind is free to concentrate and help your practice and your patients more completely.

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