Do it, Delete it or Delegate it!

We all need more selling time! But how do we get it when there are so many other things that pull our attention away? Just email alone can swallow up 2 hours of my day. The inbox fills up within minutes of the time I clear it out.

I know I’m not alone because just this week I helped 4 people with this problem. It’s impossible for most of us to focus with all that email sitting there. We are wondering if there is a big order or a client canceling or some other important message, but 90% of it is not urgent and we dig through all that email instead of completing our priority items first.

If we are in sales, our highest payoff activity is always selling, not answering email, so we need a better way to handle it.

Send  Less

One of the best ways to get less email is to send less! Simple. Yes, and it works. Think about each email you send; do you really need to send it? Who needs to receive it? Could you serve yourself and others better by picking up the phone or skype or could this be a quick IM (Instant Message) conversation?


Stop letting email dictate the order of the tasks you do. Learn to prioritize. I see that most people run their day by their email. They look at their email box and start with the email that is on top, which in most cases is the newest email. This is not necessarily the most important, either. It’s much better to look at the older email first, those have been waiting longer. DO go through your email and prioritize the tasks – DON’T do them as they appear. You may have some hours of clean up to get to a point where this system will work.

Unfortunately, we have trained our customers and prospects to expect an instant response by email. They think something is wrong if they don’t receive a reply within minutes. No salesperson should be sitting at their desk replying to emails unless that is the only way they get orders. If you are out selling, it will be a couple hours before you can check your email. Re-train your clients and set reasonable expectations for returning emails. No instant replies. If they need something urgently, tell them the best alternative way to reach you or someone at your office who can tend to their concern.

What To Do With All That Email

Do it, delete it or delegate it. Hey it sounds simple, but it works. The first thing you need to do is block time each day to work on email. I do it about 3 times a day. Each morning I review my day and then check email quickly to see if there is anything that will change my priorities. I check right before or right after lunch and I check at the end of my day. Of course sometimes I have so much email I have to spend several hours after work to get it organized. Here is how I do it.

Do it.

If it is something that can be done in 5 minutes or less, I do it.

Delete it.

If I have done it, then most of the time I can delete it. Many of the items I can scan quickly and see that they are junkmail, a newsletter or something I don’t need. So deleting is the best action.

Delegate it.

Three things fall into this category.

  1. Delegate it to my own calendar to do at a later date. If I do that, I also file it in the appropriate folder and drag it on to my calendar so it is easy to find when I need it.
  2. Delegate it to another person with specific instructions about what needs to be done by when. If I do that, I use a method that reminds me to follow up to be sure it was completed.
  3. Delegate it to a folder or file for safe keeping. Sometimes no action is required, but it is something important that I may need access to again, like a signed agreement from a client. I put it in the appropriate email folder or save the attachment in the appropriate file.

End Result

Your inbox is empty by then end of the day, or nearly empty. With email, messages fly in at any time so it is likely you will have a few that pop in at the end of the day that will wait until morning. You feel more at ease because you have done your priority items and you know what is lurking in your email. Instead of your email ruling you, you have rules for your email. Don’t forget to consider sending less as a way to receive less, it works. Freeing up your time to sell is a priority. I know that these methods work because I use them and I teach my clients to use them and it makes a significant difference.

If you use any other great methods to deal with email, please share them in the comment section for all of our readers. If you would like to train your team on this and other time management strategies for sales, ask me about Making Minutes®,or for online training’s that will benefit you and your company, visit our events page at:


About the Author Alice Heiman

Alice Heiman, the CEOs Sales Coach. According to, she is among the world’s leading experts on the complex sale. She strategizes with sales leadership and provides innovative ideas to grow sales. Originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group, Alice and her team incorporate the newest research and best practices to provide sales programs that generate immediate and sustainable results.

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  • Abbi Whitaker says:

    What great tips! I am over run by email each day and this is very helpful

    • Alice Heiman says:

      Me too! I have to follow my own guidelines to keep things moving. Sometimes it really helps to share with others and know they have the same issues.

  • Lynn says:

    Thanks for all of these great ‘rules’ for dealing with email, Alice.
    Another great strategy when managing an overflowing email inbox, is to start with the oldest page first, because then you can handle a full page at a time, to ‘reply, star, folder, delete, delegate’. Then work page by page until you return to the newest page. I once managed a backlog of over 10,000 emails in this way, and it was a significant experience of triumph.
    Best wishes, Lynn

  • Kelly Milosavljevich says:

    These are good tips for anyone. I’m not in sales and I could apply all these ideas. Thanks!

  • A few simple rules make a big difference! Thanks for the new moto “Do it, Delete it, Delegate it” I will definitley be sharing these tips!

  • Excellent reminder, Alice- as a devout David Allen “GTD” fan I love having a system in place to deal with email creep. There is nothing worse than a stuffed email box to detract a seller from selling.

  • Deisi Gonzalez says:

    This is great Alice. I know that these tips will help me clean my email and maintain it that way.

  • Bernice says:

    Another thing I do is to not tackle email first thing. First I start with my highest priority for the day. I tackle email at mid day and perhaps at the end of the day. Your advice is great–delete, delegate, or do it!

  • Thank you so much for this information! I am overwhelmed by email. I really like the idea that “just because it is there at the top, doesn’t mean it is high priority” and that I can do something to reduce the clutter, such as picking up the phone and calling someone….what a concept!!! That would actually save a lot of back and forth emailing. I like the idea of not looking at email first thing in the morning. It can really affect the “tone” of the day. Waiting until before lunch sounds like a great idea and then checking it again later at the end of the day. Thanks so much for the helpful tips!! Striving to live a simpler life, with less clutter, electronic or otherwise.

  • Another way to give yourself more time in the day is to set your send and receive option to only once an hour. It is amazing what you can get done in an hour if you are not “email interrupted”!

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