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Stephanie vs. Email

As the principal of a busy digital ad agency in Phoenix, it is my job to keep the company organized, keep our clients happy, make certain that projects are done on time and communicate with an owner that I would affectionately characterize as very ‘hands-on’. (pun intended)

Like many of you, email is my friend and my enemy.

Email went mainstream over 20 years ago, and still to this day it is by far the most popular form of business communication. It is very easy to spend the majority of any given day lost in a sea of messages.

A few years back I had read about a method called Inbox Zero. Simply put, it’s designed to clear your inbox everyday to zero. (In the marketing business that’s a name with a very short brand path). Since I get anxious when I see more than 5 emails in my queue it was imperative to me to implement my version of inbox zero:

First thing I do when I open my email is scan through my entire inbox (mind you I’m a person that doesn’t keep emails in her inbox, so in the morning once I get to work, I’ll have maybe 25 emails). My scan allows me to quickly delete anything that I don’t need, want, or am able to handle in less than 10 seconds. Things like a sales flyer from an apparel supplier, US Weekly letting me know Jennifer Garner went to the grocery store (in sweatpants mind you), etc. All those go away immediately.

From there I have two main folders that I work with. The FOLLOW UP folder is something that requires an action or a response that will take more than 30 seconds. A client emails me for a new job request, or I need to put together a quote for promotional products; I slide that email into my FOLLOW UP folder. These are emails that require a more immediate response, but it will take some work on my part before I can respond.

The HOLD folder is something that doesn’t require a quick response, but is something I need to get to at some point in the next day. Invoices, pertinent articles to read, emails from my family asking how the wedding planning is going, that kind of thing go to the HOLD folder. I’ll get to these once FOLLOW UP is empty, during the last few minutes of my lunch break, later in the day or at night when the boss is asleep.

That clears my inbox to zero, leaving time for me to keep the company running properly so clients are happy, projects are done on time and that owner guy can be a little more “hands off.” (pun intended)

Here is another tip: Spend a few minutes at the end of the week unsubscribing to anything that wastes your time. I promise you will survive if you didn’t read that Shutterfly is offering 5% off their custom photo blankets. Slide that pesky noise into a folder titled UNSUBSCRIBE. Or, just sign up at and take them all down at once!

If you have any questions or want some help organizing your inbox, let me know. You can shoot me an email at, but don’t be surprised if I slide it into my HOLD folder and get back to you later today!

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