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How to Work with a Virtual Assistant to Clear Your Inbox

How to Work with a Virtual Assistant to Clear Your Inbox

When you are a small business owner, you spend a fair share of your day sifting through your inbox trying to decrease the number of emails in it. It is a very big part of your daily routine and the one you might feel you need to have the most control over.

However, if this aspect of your business is eating away at your already limited (and precious) time, it’s best to start thinking about relinquishing some control.

Email can feel very personal so, of course, it can be a tricky one to hand over to outsource to someone else. But, think about how many hours you will save, and how much of yourself you’ll be able to invest in your business?

This is where a virtual assistant comes into play. VAs are there to help you manage every aspect of your business. First up it is worth mentioning you need to get into the mindset of teaching your virtual assistant about your business. The more they understand what you do, the more things they can take care of. In all honesty this pays off whether your VA helps with your email or not because, as with any employee, you need those that help you to buy into what you do, to be enthused and motivated.

Now, back to the emails. I just want to be clear that this particular article is designed to help you with your personal work inbox. Having a separate email work address for your VA to answer people, or giving them access to your support email address is much more standard practise and should be something that is easy to delegate.

So, here are some quick tips on working with a VA to ease the pressure on your personal work inbox:

Setting up your email so it’s easily accessible

Before you begin relinquishing control, it is very important to make sure your email is set up in a way that is easily accessible. This means going for an email service that can sync your data across different devices, so that everything is at your disposal at any time. This also means you would be able to log in to them from a different device, so you’re not limited only to your personal computer.

Some of the systems which offer these services are Gmail and Zoho.

Gmail offers access across different platforms and devices and syncs your data so that all your information is at your disposal at any time. It also allows you to forward domain-based emails to your Gmail and reply to them using the same domain ( you can easily set this up in Gmail settings following this YouTube tutorial.

Zoho Workplace is another useful platform for email hosting. It is Zoho’s version of G Suite and is an innovative take on email with social networking properties. It has a shared inbox so that all members on the team can see the emails, as well as an option to reply with domain-based emails.

Giving your assistant access to your email

Okay, you’ve set up your email and you’re ready for the next step. Now, before your heart beats out of your chest, breathe. It’s a necessary step, and much like many things in life, all of the reservations you’re having will turn out to not be justifiable.

You have two options when letting someone have control of your email:

  • Share your username and password (there are a number of services to protect your password and keep it a secret like LastPass or 1password.

  • If you’re using Gmail- under your account settings you can look up the section “grant access to your account”- this will mean your assistant is able to see and reply to emails in your inbox.

Relinquishing control

Now we’ve come to the hardest part of all. Having someone read messages intended for your eyes can be strange at first, but there are ways to go around this. If there really are people whose emails you’d rather only you read, give them a secret email address. But make sure no more than five people know about or else the entire effort of lessening the load is pointless.

Once your assistant has access to your email you can introduce them to your personal style of organising your inbox. This might take a little practice, but it will all fall into place.

One of the useful rules for decluttering your email is the one click rule which basically means that when you open an email you are allowed to do only one of 3 things:

  1. Reply

  2. Archive

  3. Delete

If your assistant learns to follow these rules and applies them to your inbox before you start your day, you might end up needing to answer only 30 instead of 200 emails.

Creating your own rules

You know your business and assistant best so feel free to devise a set of rules your assistant will follow. That way you’ll know that your email is handled correctly and that nothing is slipping through the cracks.

The best way to go about this is to really observe your inbox over a couple of weeks. You will soon start to see patterns in the messages you receive and the categories you can put them into. By doing so, you will discover which emails you need to deal with personally, and which your assistant can cover.

Additional Tips for Your Assistant to Follow

  • Make use of the starred or flagged option in your inbox: Advise your assistant to star or flag the emails you need to handle personally.

  • Set up filters: If there are people whose messages only you want to see, make sure they are filtered and they are going straight to yourself.

  • Use labels: Have your assistant use labels for certain opportunities you are keen on. This way you’ll have a much clearer image of what you want to focus on when you open your email.

  • Give your assistant the power to delete at will: This will not only help you declutter your mind of unnecessary messages, but also build your relationship with your assistant. Giving them this freedom means you believe in them and grows their confidence in the job they’re doing.

Once you follow these guidelines, you’ll find that you spend less time sifting through a load of emails. You’ll also better your relationship with your assistant, by giving them the autonomy to do tasks on their own.

Naturally, these rules aren’t a must, but an idea on how you can destress your inbox (and yourself). Feel free to add more rules to suits your needs!