How a Virtual Assistant Can Take Control of Your Inbox Management

How a Virtual Assistant Can Take Control of Your Inbox Management

People often joke that they’re drowning in emails, and you know, there might be some truth in that… A McKinsey study found that the average professional spends 28% of their workweek in their email inbox. For a standard 40-hour workweek, that’s over 11 hours per week—more than a full workday.

While there’s no escaping email in the modern world, a virtual assistant can make a measured impact on that “whack-a-mole” feeling that many business owners face. Hiring a virtual assistant for your inbox management can help you regain your precious time (which also means saving you money) and ensure there’s an organized system in place to keep things running smoothly.

Here’s how to delegate your inbox and tips for virtual assistants to keep things in tip-top shape.

1. Lay the Groundwork

You might be eager to start seeing that number in your inbox go down, but before you send your VA off to the races, spend some time building a strong foundation.

Start by covering the technical questions. Will your VA have access to your email login or will they receive delegate access? Would you prefer that they respond as you, or forward emails to their own assistant email to answer? Will you cc or bcc them on things that need their attention? Should you send an introductory email to your contacts so they know who your assistant is? 

Next, you’ll need to establish a loose routine for when your VA checks your inbox. We recommend morning, afternoon, and end of day to make sure they’re capturing everything in a timely manner. 

It’s important to discuss the goals for your inbox as well. Do you want to maintain inbox zero? Have a faster response time? Or just not have to think about email at all? Think about the big picture and communicate your email pain points so that your VA can know what to prioritize. 

2. Get to the Bottom of Things

It’s time to play detective and do a little cleanup. 

You will need to have a bit of a handle on what’s going on in your inbox in order to effectively delegate its management. Even if you have thousands of emails piling up, you can take a look at the past two weeks as a mini audit. This will help you understand the broad categories of emails you get. Look out for any patterns that will inform your VA when building out systems. Set up a list of important contacts, topics, and vendors that your assistant should pay particular attention to.

And while you’re at it, spend some time unsubscribing from emails that are cluttering your inbox or archiving non-important emails to give you a fresh start. 

3. Set Up a System

Let’s be real, working through emails one by one is not a good system. The goal is to minimize the time spent in your inbox both for you AND your VA. You’re going to achieve this by using some of the automated email features that will capture incoming mail and send it to the right place. 

The beauty here is that you get to set the system that makes sense for you, and your VA can help maintain things. Here are some of our favorite features:

Folders, labels, and filters: Set these up right and your emails will sort themselves without you having to manually categorize things! Organize by client or project so that as soon as things from a certain contact or about a certain topic land in your inbox, they’re labeled under the appropriate category and either filed or kept in the inbox for review. For emails like travel receipts, set up filters to skip the inbox and go straight to the appropriate folder so that you can easily access them but don’t have to see them in your main inbox. 

If you need some help getting sorting systems set up, check out these handy tutorials for Gmail users and for Outlook users.

Templates: If there are *any* emails you send repeatedly—whether it’s answers to frequently asked questions or meeting requests—set up templates to majorly cut down time writing the same thing over and over again. Most email services have this feature built-in, making it super easy to access your library of templates when writing emails. All you have to do is customize the details before sending!

4. Tag Team

Now that your inbox has a clear system and you’ve got a trusty VA at the helm, the last thing you’ll need to do is determine how you’ll take care of the emails that require your attention. 

If you like to knock things out as they come, you can create a dedicated Slack or Teams chat for questions that come up in your email. That way, your assistant can field emails in real time and take some work off your plate by responding for you. You can also set up a quick check-in at a set time each day for you to bulk answer these questions. 

For emails that you need to respond to, you can set up a red, yellow, green system where your VA will add pertinent emails to these folders categorized from high to low importance.

Often times, we approach email as a task list, but we recommend moving things out of email as much as possible. Have your VA create a list of action items in your preferred project management tool (with links to emails when necessary for easy reference) and then figure out how to tackle the list. Some things might require no action or later action. Some things you’ll need to block time for. If the task takes less than two minutes, we say get it done right on the spot

We’re not going to say it’s as easy as 1-2-3, but we know that being strategic with systems and working alongside a virtual assistant can free up precious hours in any business owner’s week!

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