I read in my Twitter feed yesterday that a business colleague had taken 4 hours to clear down her inbox – I actually clicked ‘like’ – The Twitter version of giving someone a virtual high five or round of applause – And why? …Because it does take that sort of time and commitment to not let email take over your business life. She put the hours in and I bet she reaped the results today with a clearer inbox and therefore a clearer mind.
I’m sure that email causes stress for some and the constant ping of the inbox brings the ‘I need to drop what I’m doing and do something with that now’ or on the other end of the scale is the bury your head in the sand approach of letting your inbox build up and up until your iPhone’s home screen looks like it has an extra phone number written onto it – I’m looking at my sister here ; ) though she tells me that there are reasons for this.
I get that email is a personal thing and people do react differently to, and manage ‘it’ differently. Me, I’m super duper organised and as a result of that I operate on a Zero inbox basis – It’s quite an addictive practice and I must admit I feel a certain euphoria whenever I reach that No Message Selected point on my inbox. I also measure success when I can see all of my inbox emails without having to scroll – Oh my I need to get out more!
I’m a little different in the fact that my business income is deemed by my inbox – As that’s where I do most of my comms with clients from, and if someone sends a job to do, website to amend, email campaign to send; well that’s monies for me. So paying attention to my own inbox and giving it some love, does pay off for me, literally. Granted it’s taken a long time to get to this point in my business – I turn 6 in a couple of months, yay!
I think one of the main things to look at here is the why… Running a business, working in a job, being a directional entrepreneur – None of those are ‘jobs’ to actually send email – Email is a communication tool, a means to an (a back and forth!) end. I felt at one point that my job was to send email – It was taking up the most time after all – Things had to change.
I’m also have a type of brain where I can’t settle on something if there is stuff to do – So having a tidy house (office), the washing up done, and then a zero inbox means that I’m free to get on with the rest of the day and therefore jobs. It’s just me I’m sure, and I’ve experimented with differing approaches – I do what works now – My record is getting to zero inbox within 15 minutes of a morning. You can too…
I’m going to exercise a few tips now – Granted they won’t work for everyone, and I think you need to add your own spin to them anyway – But it’s a start and there are some good ideas here.
Choose when you Do Do.
I’m a huge Tim Ferriss fan – 4 Hour Work Week anyone? I’m working on mine! Well he shares in his book about only checking emails at certain points during the day.
So check at say 08:30am, 12:15pm and then 4.30pm. Work on email for 45 minutes – Do what you need to do and then switch email off for all of the other times.
Concentrated effort and the beauty of this is that you read things once also.
You can also look under this to turn of your email program for say 30 minutes when you need to really concentrate on a task if you can’t go cold turkey on the above.
Turn off the noise…
I know it’s a lot to turn off the whole email program – So what about just the sound – There’s a setting to stop the constant pinging. A ping takes your attention – Attention, which should be spent doing something productive!
Have a SLA
That’s a Service Level Agreement. So I’ve got something along the lines of “I will respond to emails within 24 hours” That’s a little drastic I know, but I’m a VA, anyhooo you get the idea. So that’s buried in my T’s & C’s on my website somewhere and it gives me the confidence that I’m doing the right thing by leaving an email for 24 and a half hours before I reply. Phew, breathing space!
Yes I get that people will email again for a reply and then there’s the phone call which starts “Did you get my email” after the initial hello and did you have a nice weekend BUT I have the confidence that I will get back to them – In 24 hours!
If I’m going to be offline / travelling / holiday / etc then I’ll set an out of office, which sets the expectation. See what I did there?!
SMART phone Headache…
OK so this is a sneaky one – But I’ve taken email off of my iPhone (shock face emoji!!), and it’s been a while haha. Granted I’m a Social Media / online marketing trainer and slightly addicted to using Twitter, so I do and should know better, but I’m probably the worst SMART Phone user ever! I’ve even got any notifications turned OFF for the social media’s that I do have on my iPhone. I digress, but cutting down on the amount of beeps and noises coming out of the thing has been very liberating! (I honestly do ignore my phone most of the time! Sorry!!)
The problem that I was finding with iPhone email was that I was reading email in say the supermarket queue, or when waiting for a train, but then not doing anything with it (just mulling over a reply in my head which was causing me to think more, not handy when I need to concentrate on walking and stuff) – So I was ultimately reading an email twice and then doing something with it. Totes waste of time… Yes I can thumb type the hell out of an iMessage but I’m better for touch-typing on a keyboard, with full computer and internet available and can therefore script a more thoughtful and actioned reply.
Try it though, you might like it. I’ve only been caught out once – When I went to pick up my new kettle from Tesco and the reference number for said collection was on email, which I hadn’t copied down, so I had to log into webmail – But that was for personal. I’m just a little more mindful of things now – So if I’m picking up train tickets for example I write the reference in my calendar which is synced etc.
Do something with it
Do it, ditch it, delegate it – You know how this works. So ultimately I use my inbox to create my to do list and therefore task management.
I’m not going to start getting into the how to work – But your inbox is for incoming comms. You might miss something if not dealt with.
I usually take a look at what I have come in and:
Delete the junk mail
Action any quick fixes – Increasing website server space, answering social media notifications, putting expenses through and PDFing receipts etc, quick ping backs that don’t need too much attention
Medium things – Do these – Might be quick amends to websites, or booking something in, my own course booking admin, sorting dates for meetings etc.
Flag things, but moce them to sent items – Again I have a system and I keep track of jobs / bookings / to do list I’ve done etc with my sent items
Jobs to do – Add these to my to do list. So I will write back to someone telling them that I have the email, I’m working on the task and when they can expect this back by – I then delete the email I’ve just replied on, but go into my sent items and flag that ‘to do’ with a purple flag.
Granted this may not be the best method, but it’s my method, and I’ll elaborate more into this at some point, but I think you get the jist – You have options to not let email take over your life.
There are also longer terms things that you can do for example:
Unsubscribe from as many emails as you can – There are tools to do this – In a large inbox I’d just do a search for ‘unsubscribe’ and use what buttons you can on the individual emails for this – Beware of real spam looking sites and don’t enter your email address into anything to unsubscribe.
The above also gos against the fact that I train, do and have Email Marketing as one of my best marketing methods for business – So I’m sorry people on this!
Delete everything in your inbox if it’s just too much – I hold my hands up that I’m not telling you to do this. BUT a great business contact of mine actually did this when she came back from travelling a couple of summers ago – And you know what, it didn’t harm her business one bit – She mentioned that she would start from inbox dot once she got back and then when things became urgent, or needed, people re emailed her. Again I’m not telling you to delete everything in your inbox!
Getting to inbox zero for the first time can be an oh so liberating experience (new handbag as a reward time type of thing!) – But then you’ll need to go back to the beginning of this blog post and repeat the process again!
Enjoy and let me know how you get on!