I recently did a free speaking gig, where I talked through how I manage my email accounts ( 2 work email addresses and a personal account). The topic was so popular, I decided to blog about it, to show you how you can manage your emails effectively.

I’ve made great progress since my Sept 16 Blog about being the bottleneck just by the way.

Here’s the outline of what I do and how I transitioned from email overwhelm, to having Sundays off entirely ( I’m not kidding about the Sundays).

My email management consists of 3 deliberate actions. These are not always easy to accomplish and point of fact, the first 2 require an enormous amount of discipline and the last one, requires an incredible amount of confidence and bravery.

The steps to manage your emails effectively

  1. The Email App is closed most of the time -I do not open my email account unless I am actively working on reading and dealing with my emails. As an addendum to this point, I have also disabled all instant notifications from the apps on my phone and tablet that I use to read and reply to emails.
  2. I set aside 2 blocks of time through each day, usually around 30 to 45 mins , this is the time I “do my emails”. In this time I start at the oldest unread email , open it, read it, deal with it completely  and reply. Sometimes that means delegating the request to a staff member. Then I move onto the next email. I do not mark the email unread and come back to it later. I do not leave it open and ponder what to do with it. If I truly cannot deal with it immediately then I schedule time in my calendar  or place a task in my to do list in my CRM, and then I reply to the email. At the end of my allotted time, I close my email app and get on with the work in my calendar or task list.

    Point 2 sometimes means that I occasionally reply to an email 24-48 hours later. When I first started this process, I panicked endlessly about not appearing responsive. I challenged myself to work faster through the emails or to have more “open times” allotted during the day. It never worked. Only when I became much tougher on myself about sticking to the allotted time, did the other work, daily tasks, meetings with people and events sort themselves out. And what I realised through this process, is that there is very very little in an email that requires an instant reply.

  3. I have an ‘Out of Office” that is on semi-permanently. I use it to explain point 1 and 2 ( although in much shorter succinct language than above) – I also use it to market my workshops and let people know where I’ll be networking in the next few days. It works a treat I can tell you. Because expectations are managed from the get go.

And this is how it’s going so far…

I’ve only been challenged once on the method I use to manage my emails, by someone who called me lazy. Because apparently only answering emails for  60-90 minutes a day means you’re not working. He was also offended too that I dared to apply LEAN principles to my emails.

I laughed myself into a stitch on that one, because anyone who knows me, will know how far off centre that comment is. I have in fact worked myself into illness and collapse, twice before. (and how I manage not to do that anymore is a blog for another day) So, “lazy” is probably the last word you could use to describe me. I also find it ludicrous to equate responding to emails as “work”, when there is so much else going on in any job role for any given business. And especially so if you are the owner, founder and Chief Chick in Charge , as I am.I hear the grumbling already, about people not getting their answers immediately, about being available 24/7 in today’s digital economy etc etc.

Here’s some answers to the objections I can already hear forming on your lips as you read :

YOU : How will I get a hold of you in an emergency?

ME : I say – emails are a TERRIBLE choice of communication about and during an emergency. Every client of mine has my office and mobile number. If the house is burning down, they know to call the mobile, or send a text. I respond pretty darn quick to text messages, provided I am not in a session with a client or otherwise engaged in a speaking event or sitting on a panel.

YOU : But, I want to have my questions about your services answered at 10 pm at night?

ME : Read through my old blogs, or my facebook feed, and check out a few of the videos I’ve posted to youtube. Otherwise , if they don’t answer the question,  rest assured I will get back to you via email, within the next 24 hours or so. At  reasonable hour. Better yet  – use the booking form on my website to schedule a Discovery Call directly into my calendar, and I will call you at the scheduled time.

YOU : My business could never do this, I’m in sales and need to be responsive.

ME : If you’re in sales, and need to instantly speak to clients or respond to queries quickly, email is the worst communication channel to pick. Direct chat messages from your website, text messages on your phone that integrate into your CRM. Online ordering portals that send notifications to you and client automatically with their questions. These are the communication channels you should be looking at. And not forgetting Ye Olde Phone. Being in sales means there’s a good bet that people will want to speak to you in person, so let them.

YOU : So what is email good for then , it sounds like you say it’s dead or dying ?

ME : Not at all – I just don’t believe that emails are the best for instant communications. Here’s what I do use email for :

  • I send personal emails from me to my clients with status updates on their work and to confirm our verbal appointments.
  • I send Targeted Niched campaigns to highly segmented lists ( I don’t do a generic newsletter anymore – and that, again is probably a whole other  blog ) – in other words communications that are specific to the reason they became my client.
  • Ones I call CYA – Cover Your ***. I use emails to confirm verbal agreements with people. Because some things need to be in writing.
  • I use emails to reach out to potential partners, vendors, or to send through details about my services ( when asked to) – and I need to attach a document of some kind. I  do not send unsolicited sales spam.
YOU : I couldn’t possibly send a generic response to all my contacts and any new leads.

ME: Fair enough, I don’t either in reality, because G-Suite has this awesome Labs feature called Canned Responses. It allows me to respond to certain emails, based on very specific search criteria, with a specific and different templated ‘auto response’. So I can turn off the Out of Office at times when I am working with clients who don’t share my futuristic view about setting expectations, and still respond to all my other clients and contacts to let them know where I will be in the coming week.

YOU: Wait – how is this applying LEAN principles again ?

ME: Lean, at it’s core, is about doing more with less. So simply put – I create better outcomes for my clients. I do this by wasting less time on a communication method that is simply not meant to be immediate.

YOU: But wait, you said something about not working on Sunday’s ? 

ME: Yes. Yes I did, and I’m glad you asked. See back before I was disciplined with my emails, and stuck in that mindset that emails had to be answered instantaneously, I found myself drowning in stress during weekdays. There was no such thing as “normal office hours”. As a result of this super-stressed,  highly inefficient working methodology, I ended up “catching up” with non-email work over weekends. Which it turns out, is actually the bulk of the load in any real business. Now , because I am a) on top of my work <mostly> and b) answering emails in a thoughtful deliberate manner  – it is wholly unnecessary for me to work through the weekend. So I take every single Sunday ( and most Saturdays ) to relax.