Have you ever had one of those days when all of a sudden it’s lunch time and you realize all you’ve done is bounced back and forth on email for hours? It’s ok – we’ve all had them. The question is: how can you restructure the way you manage your email to ensure you’re getting other work done too?

This becomes increasingly difficult if you’re a freelancer with multiple clients (maybe in multiple time zones), but there are a few hacks you can put into place to make sure you’re prioritizing your time.

1. Create email aliases for each client

Especially if you’re working with multiple clients, it’s essential to segment them out so you focus on one project one at a time. When you first begin working with a new client, go ahead and set up an email alias you’d like them to use when communicating with you. The sooner they get into the habit of using this contact info, the better!

2. Set up filters and labels

Remember that alias you just set up? Now put it to good use! Filter individual client emails into tidy folders in your inbox helps you stay organized when you’re looking for that one email from two months ago that Bob just can’t seem to dig up.

3. Separate out newsletters

We all have those newsletters we just can’t bear to part with, but don’t let them clog up your inbox. Gmail has been great about setting up auto filtering for promotions and updates, and you can use your own custom filters to enhance how you divide up your inbound emails.

Set aside a time once a day, or even just once or twice a week to read through these updates. Let’s be honest: if you checked them as they rolled in, you might never get back to creating your own newsletter you were working on before getting distracted.

If you need help setting up filters, try checking out apps like SaneBox to do some of the heavy lifting for you.

4. Set specific times to address emails for each client

You can’t be everywhere at once, but you can set expectations around when you’re available for each client’s job. Task switching can add up to a loss of 40% of your productivity, so by creating windows of time when you’ll be reachable by email, you free up larger parts of your day to actually — gasp — get work done!

5. Snooze emails for later

Okay, so you’re knee deep in writing a killer blog post and you see a notification pop up for an email from a client. The temptation: read immediately just to be sure it isn’t an emergency. Now you’re going down a rabbit hole of task switching again and have completely lost your train of thought on that post.

The solution: use a tool like Streak to snooze your email for later. If you need just another 30 minutes to focus on that piece, go ahead and take them. Unless you’re working for the fire department, that emergency email can wait.

snooze in Streak

6. Create snippets

Do you find yourself typing the same — or similar — responses day in and day out? Another great feature Streak offers is snippets. You can create saved snippets of text (including subject lines) to quickly respond to emails.

Pro tip: set shortcuts using hashtags to trigger them while you’re composing your message.

7. Schedule emails to send out later

Boomerang and Streak both offer the option to delay when you’re sending out your emails, which can be helpful for many reasons:

  • You’re up late working for a client and don’t want to send an email through at 11:30pm (hint: you probably will get a better response sending at 8am the following day).
  • You’ve got clients in different time zones and want to be respectful of when they’re working.
  • You’re a rockstar at sticking to windows of time you’re working with each client, so go ahead and schedule that email to send out during your hours spent working with them!

scheduled send

8. Keep track of your contacts

Tools like Rapporto (much like the previously beloved Rapportive that’s now shut down) help you keep track of your contacts right inside of gmail. We’ve all been there: you get an email from someone telling you how awesome it was seeing you at that event last night, the problem is, their name isn’t ringing a bell!

Using a tool to help manage your contacts not only helps you stay on top of who is who, but can help you tailor your emails directly to them, rather than the embarrassing “So sorry, where did we meet again?” lines.

Final thoughts

Email doesn’t have to be the time suck that most of us let it be. Especially if you’re working with multiple clients things can get messy pretty quickly. Luckily, there are a number of tips, tricks and tools to help you get a better grasp on your email productivity game.

Have a tip of your own to share? Leave a comment below – I’d love to learn from you as well!