Like you, I struggle with email.
You probably find yourself...
a. Getting too much email (Duh!)
b. Spending too much time on email
c. Getting sucked into long sessions of email reactionary time (aka swatting email flies)
d. Confusing your all-important business productivity with the amount of email you read, reply to, and process in a day
e. Wondering what happened to all those high-priority money-making tasks that you promised yourself you'd get done today
And you're probably like most of my clients and audiences in that you've tried dozens of ways to loosen the grip that email has on you day and night - at your computer, on your smartphone, on your iPad and even in your brain cells.
That's right - email is even stuck in your brain. C'mon, admit it - you've had dreams about your inbox.
Sad but true. There's no shame in it - and you're definitely not alone!
Over this past weekend, I made a commitment to stay OFF of email.
Bad news - it didn't work.
Good news - I found 5 great workarounds for USING email without getting SUCKED IN.
Here are the 5 specific strategies you can use to laser target your email activity - and get some important things done in 5 minutes or less without the distraction of looking at the hundreds of messages hopelessly piling up by the minute in your inbox:
1. Targeted Search. Use your email program's search feature proactively when you want to find something in particular. I recall having gotten an email last week from Staples that I had some Rewards bucks that were going to expire soon. I jumped into the search box, typed "Staples.com" and in 60 seconds, I was printing out my discount coupons and on my merry way to the Staples website and AWAY from my inbox! Like an email commando - quick in, quick out.
2. Send from the Hip. On Saturday, I wanted to send a quick note to a client about our next appointment. Your usual routine is probably like mine - we send from the inbox screen. And there are ALL those distracting messages clamoring for our attention.
It doesn't have to be that way.
This time, I opened my email and immediately hit the Compose button. The new blank email filled my screen. I addressed the email, popped in my subject line, typed out a short note to my client, hit send and immediately closed out of email. Like an email ninja - Silent but deadly!
3. Rapid Reply. Ever get that nagging feeling that you have some unfinished email business - but you just can't quite remember what it is? Then it hits you in the middle of the night: reply to Bob about his pricing question! So you pad downstairs at 2am, sit down in front of your email - and pretty soon it's 4am because you got sucked in.
It's not unusual for folks to spend 2 hours on email, get up from your desk, and realize that you forgot to take care of the original issue that you sat down to email about in the first place. Yikes!!
Here's the answer - and it builds on the targeted search technique. First, search for Bob's email address. If you can't remember it, search for his company name, the word "pricing" or anything else you recall from your last email exchange. Your search results should fill your screen and replace the inbox view.
Once you find the email in question, hit reply, compose your answer, attach any needed documents, and close out of email.
The goal is to use the Rapid Reply technique without looking at your inbox contents - or if you do catch a glimpse, deploy some self-control and consciously do not LOOK at your inbox contents for the few seconds they may be visible on your screen. Good job!
4. Deep Dig. I wanted to find a specific Wikipedia tip that I remembered was buried in an email newsletter I receive. This newsletter is one of about a half dozen that I've subscribed to for years and read regularly. The content is so good that I keep most of the back issues in an email folder I call "Research."
When I sat down to find this tip over the weekend, I did NOT want to get sucked into email. So again, my starting place was the Targeted Search technique (above). But then because these newsletters are so content-packed, I also needed to search the body text of the emails that came up in the search results. Also because I knew this email was almost surely in my "Research" folder, I limited my search to that location.
I tried searching for "Wikipedia" only to realize that this newsletter editor frequently references that site for additional info on the topics that she covers. Then I searched for a few more key words and short phrases. Finally, I remembered the person who submitted the tip and used the above search criteria in combination with his name - bingo! Two entries found. One from 2009 and one from 2011. The older one contained the gem I was looking for.
Did I spend some "deep dig" research time? Yes indeed. Did I waste any time getting SUCKED IN to email hell? Nope - and you won't either if you stay focused.
5. Do a Money Pass. This final technique I've imposed on myself to specifically combat getting sucked in to email. When you have a backlog of emails waiting in your inbox (for example, my count right now is 226 because I wanted to write this blog before getting sucked into email!!), you need to put on your money goggles.
With those money goggles firmly secured over your eyeballs, go bravely forth into your inbox. Ruthlessly ask yourself this question over and over as you survey your inbox contents: "Will replying to this email make me money?"
a. Is it a current paying client?
b. Is it an active prospect moving through your sales process?
c. Is it a past client who has paid you money?
d. Is it a referral or other note from one of your advocates, allies or partners?
e. Is it a new lead or opportunity to sell more products, services or programs?
Once you do your Money Pass, you can relegate the rest of your email processing to some down-time or other non-peak "admin" time.
As my friend Marsha Egan says, "Email is not your job."
Put that up on your wall where you can see it clearly from your computer! VERY big insight, if you ask me.
Finally, here are two excellent resources if you want to go further with your inbox management and overall personal productivity:
1. Marsha Egan's awesome InboxDetox program.
2. Franklin Covey's personal productivity tools.
Using these 5 strategies plus some intentionally applied will-power (which will become easier the more you use the 5 strategies!) you will take back control of your time, your day and your life!
p.s. If you'd like some personalized help - and your very own customized marketing and sales toolkit PLUS an easy-to-implement small business marketing game plan with 1-on-1 guidance for 90 days, get all the details here.