When And How You Should Delegate Email To Your Assistant

Before you hand over responsibility (and your password), here are three tips to keep in mind.

When And How You Should Delegate Email To Your Assistant
[Image: Shutterstock]

How much of your day is spent reviewing emails? You know: reading, deleting, responding, flagging . . . rinse, repeat. Not all emails are created equal, and not all of them require your undivided attention.


Alexandra Samuel, vice president of social media for Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based market research technology provider, recently explored the issue in a blog post for Harvard Business Review. There she explains:

An assistant can reduce the burden of email management in ways automated systems can’t, be they third-party plugins or rules and filters that you set up within your inbox.They can function as your email triage system, conduct your daily inbox reviews, or even reply to individual messages.

Depending on your level of comfort, there are ways to reduce the amount of time spent dealing with the chaos that is your inbox. Here are Samuel’s three tips:

1. Decide what and how much to delegate

If the idea of surrendering control of your inbox to someone else makes you break out in hives, you don’t have to give them full access. Samuel suggests evaluating factors such as your office’s policies, whether your assistant has good judgment, and whether their grammar and spelling proficiency matches your own level in making this determination.

If you want to retain more control, she advises creating a second email address where you can either 1. give your assistant access to your primary address and have confidential information sent to the second address, or 2. forward email from your primary account to a second account (by setting up email rules) and have your assistant access mail from the second account.

2. Set up a process that works for you

In establishing the ground rules for your collaboration, it’s important to set clear expectations with your assistant, Samuel notes. She recommends using delegation services (like those offered by Gmail and Outlook) that allow others to access your inbox without surrendering your password.

Decide up front whether your assistant will respond to your incoming mail as you, under their own name, or forward certain messages to you. Clarify how often they will check your inbox and how they’ll flag items that need your attention. For example, Samuel suggests creating a file labeled “Assistant” and another titled “Read This” to clarify who should respond to what email.


3. Provide draft responses

If your assistant will be responding to email on your behalf, it’s best to provide draft responses for them to use, Samuel says. Have a few ready to go for yourself, as well, for when you plan to forward an item to your assistant for follow-up. For example, “I’ve CC’d my assistant, Jeff Jones, and he’ll be in touch with a meeting time for next week.”

“Email is an enormous part of the workload for most professionals,” Samuel says. By enlisting the help of a trusted employee to assist, she notes, “you’ll not only find it easier to stay on top of email, you’ll find it easier to stay on top of all of your work.”

Hat tip: Harvard Business Review

Related: If you don’t have the luxury of having your own assistant, check out this week’s new habit challenge, where we’re inviting readers to start using their email autoresponders every day.


About the author

Lindsay LaVine is a Chicago-based business and lifestyle freelance writer who's worked for NBC and CNN. Her work has appeared online in,,, NBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo, Business Insider, and Fox Business.