Contributed by Jeanette Gardiner
If you’re like me, you have a love-hate relationship with email.
You love that you’re able to send messages quickly and virtually free to anyone around the world, but that same convenience also creates frustration with the avalanche of messages you receive daily.
Email is a great way to connect with, engage and stay in touch with your customers, clients, prospects and colleagues. But just like every other business tool, you have to know how to use email properly or it can easily consume your days.
If you’re struggling under an email avalanche, start digging out with these four strategies:
Don’t check your email constantly.
If you have your email account synced to a mobile device, it can be challenging to not check your email 24/7. The temptation to drop everything and check your email happens the second you get a new notification. But when you check your email too often, two things happen:
1. You make a mental note to respond later. And then you forget or ignore the message.
2. Or you think “this will only take a minute” to respond right away, which distracts you from the task at hand (even if the “task” is spending quality time with family, friends or relaxing on vacation).
Instead, set a designated time to check and respond to messages. It's usually best to have one to two times during the day that you stop and manage your email. An efficient and effective schedule is to check your email in the morning and again just before you call it a day.
Email often serves as the first point-of-contact for many businesses, with questions or inquiries which are very similar in nature. One of my clients received almost daily inquiries about her private training sessions so we worked together to create an email template that she quickly and easily copied, pasted and personalized. Not only did the email templates provide helpful and responsive answers to those inquiring, they were incredible time-savers for my client.
Take a look at the messages in your inbox for similarities and create template responses that you can quickly copy, paste and personalize. Keep them in your draft folder for easy access.
Make a decision quickly.
Procrastination is the enemy when it comes to email productivity. You only have a few basic options when it comes to managing your email messages: Respond, file, delegate or delete.
Once you make a decision, ask yourself if you’ll need the information again later. For example when you get an electronic receipt for a business purchase, it’s usually best to file it. But emails that aren’t important or that you don’t have to follow up with can be deleted.
And if you like to save information (like newsletters) to read later, create a “Read Later” folder and set up a rule on those types of messages to direct them to that folder.
Know when to pick up the phone.
Sometimes a phone call is more effective and efficient than email. With a phone call, you have the advantage of tone and inflection. This is especially important when dealing with challenging or difficult situations that could be easily misinterpreted by the written word. And the written word is often misinterpreted – no matter how many emojis you use to express your tone.
Email doesn’t have to control your schedule or focus. With the right systems and habits, you can take control of your inbox and end the electronic avalanche. And to help you begin your new (more productive) email habit, I’ve created a quick journal exercise that you can download today at goo.gl/ihcakM.
P.S. This is the third article and journal exercise in a five-part series to boost your productivity. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for access to the entire series.
About Jeanette Gardiner
Jeanette Gardiner lives in Palmer, Alaska, and is the owner of SeaStar Strategies LLC where she helps time-strapped small business owners discover the gift of time by streamlining their administrative and marketing systems. Learn more at www.seastarstrategies.com.