This week's post is written by Sarah Leitschuh, of The Vibrant Therapist. Sarah is this month's guest expert in The Refreshed Therapist Network membership. She teaches on all things related to taking inventory and de-cluttering your therapist life. I asked her to share her expertise on cleaning out email inboxes, and these are her top tips.
Two years ago I literally had thousands of emails in my practice email inbox and probably just as many in my personal email inbox. Can you relate?
As I navigated my growing practice and busy family life, I didn't think about creating a strong system for managing my email inbox. I didn't delete nearly as many emails as I could have/should have been deleting, and I didn't have a good system for filing emails for future reference.
So my emails just sat in my email inbox piling up.
The number of emails in my inbox kept getting higher and higher.
I was overwhelmed and stressed-out thinking that I was losing track of something important.
As I started casually mentioning my struggles to other therapists, I realized I was not alone. Colleagues shared that they were losing the battle with their email inboxes, too.
Flash forward to now. As I write this post, my practice email inbox has 10 items waiting to be addressed. Totally manageable.
How did I do it? I figured out an approach to eliminate my email backlog and focused on this for one or two weeks, while simultaneously creating a system to manage my incoming email on a regular basis.
The reward of this focused effort was great! I am not overwhelmed by opening my email inbox anymore. Even if the inbox numbers creep up during a busy week, or a week that I am on vacation, I am confident that I know how to tackle those emails more quickly and efficiently and will be caught up in no time.
Once I figured out how to create a system to manage my email inbox, I started helping other therapists do the same, and they have shared amazing results--eliminating even more backlog than I did!
These are my Top 3 Tips for Therapists Who Are Ready to De-Clutter Their Email Inbox:
1 | Delete and Unsubscribe Liberally
- Ask yourself “Do I need the information in this email?”
- If not, DELETE it!
- If you do need the information, take action and then delete, or file, as appropriate.
- If you are routinely getting emails from individuals that you do not find valuable, feel free to unsubscribe from their lists. You can always subscribe again in the future, if the content is more relevant to your practice.
- Remember that much of the content contained in emails can be found elsewhere, such as on websites or in blog posts.
- Be cautious of information overload; this often leads to stress and feelings of inadequacy.
- Pick and choose which lists you are subscribed to based on what type of information is most relevant to you right now.
2 | Use folders to help organize weekly tasks, and archive information that may be needed in the future
- Consider “batching” (i.e., categorizing) some of your emails to address similar types of email once a week, and create a folder for each type of batched task.
For example, I batch everything related to financial matters for the end of each week. Any time a receipt or Square (my payment processor) notification pops up in my email inbox, I drop it into a “This Week's Financials” folder. At the end of the week, I quickly make sure everything is accounted for in my system, and then I either delete all the emails, or I file them elsewhere.
- Create folders to archive information that may be needed in the future, so you can easily find those messages when needed. Name the folders in a way that makes sense to you.
Some examples of archived folders for my practice are: Liability Insurance Information, Property Management Company/Office Information, Electronic Medical Records, and Projects I Am Working On.
3 | Create a system for managing your email inbox
- Allow yourself dedicated time each week to attend to your email inbox. This can be flexible from week to week, but it is helpful to have a general structure. For example, consider scheduling time on a daily basis to respond to emails, but also allow for weekly blocks for email “clean up” (e.g., dealing with your backlog, and organizing).
- If you are working on eliminating email backlog, I suggest mapping out larger chunks of time to work on this project, until you get caught up. Track your progress, too! It's so satisfying to see the number of emails decrease.
If you block off time to start cleaning through your email, and use the above tips, you, too, can find yourself with a more manageable inbox and most importantly, feeling less overwhelmed by email clutter.
I've put together an action plan for you,
based on Sarah's tips. It's a step-by-step checklist for taking control of your email. Find it in the resource library, by signing up below.
Sarah Leithschuh is a licensed marriage and family therapist and AAMFT-Approved Supervisor practicing in Egan, MN. She is also the founder of The Vibrant Therapist, where she offers coaching and professional development to mental health providers.
Let me know in the comments below:
- Which tip was most helpful to you?
- Describe your relationship with email. :-)