Select Page

Get control of your email with the ‘five Ds’

In my last column, I talked about the basic foundational skill of responding to messages.

We, agents, get messages from multiple sources, of course, but it’s email where most of us have a colossal organizational problem.

Do you know how often I email another agent whom I know and respect, yet I never get a response? Way too often!

I follow up with them, and they provide the standard excuse, “Oh, sorry! I missed that somehow!”

But I know precisely how.

It’s because their inbox is a giant black abyss. Emails go in and get devoured, never to be seen again.

If you have a giant black abyss, I guarantee you’re losing business from potential clients and are completely unaware of it.

So here’s an idea: How about taking a break from chasing crappy leads and repairing this very real problem first? Like, right now?!

I’ll explain how to eliminate your giant black abyss, but first, you need to learn the five Ds:


1. DO: Respond immediately (whenever you are working in your inbox). If it takes less than two minutes, just DO it! If you respond but still require a follow-up, make a notation in your tasks list, calendar it, or simply leave the email in your inbox as a reminder to yourself. Otherwise, DELETE or DESIGNATE.

2. DELETE: If you’re done with an email and know you will never need the information again, DELETE it. You should also ruthlessly unsubscribe to useless emails you never read. If it’s information you might need in the future, DESIGNATE it.

3. DESIGNATE: File emails containing important information in different folders and sub-folders so you can locate them more easily in the future. 

For example, I have two big folders – active clients and inactive clients (completed deals) – and a sub-folder under each of those master folders for every client. This is where I keep ALL the emails I get pertaining to any one of my clients.

4. DELEGATE: Forward the email to someone else; your assistant, your bookkeeper, another agent, or whoever will take care of it.

5. DEFER – If you’re working in your inbox and you’re short on time, simply start a reply and then leave it. Purposely use your drafts folder for each email that requires a response but is not urgent. Now, the next time you come back to work in your inbox, your Drafts Folder acts as a “to-do” list.


Can you see how these rules will help you regain control over your inbox?


Archive old emails instead of deleting 


Now, what about the giant black abyss— the backlog of 29,500 emails you’ll probably never look at again for the rest of your life?

 Simple: Make an archive file and move over ALL of your old emails; at least everything up to the end of 2022. Do you really need emails from last year in your inbox? No, you do not.

Note: I said archive, not delete. You might need to access one of those ancient emails in the future, so don’t worry; you’re not throwing them away. 

After you’ve completed archiving, set aside an hour or two to power through the remaining emails in your inbox using the five Ds. You can delete a lot of them!  

Designate most of the remaining to various folders and sub-folders you set up as part of the clean-up process. Then, simply remember to use the five Ds going forward!


Bonus: Here’s a sixth D, and possibly the most important one for many of you:

6. DON’T be handcuffed to your inbox! 

Turn off notifications, and learn to work on emails frequently in short bursts. You’ll be surprised how many emails you can burn through in 15 minutes when your inbox isn’t a giant black abyss.

You can easily manage the 10 to 50 emails in your inbox using the five Ds. Yes, that’s all I typically have in mine, and there’s no reason you can’t too.