“I forgot to get back to that client and it’s been 2 weeks!” “Ugh. There’s so much email. I want to leave it and RUN!” “Where will I EVER find that vendor’s estimate?” Too much email.
Not the best way to start your day: stressed, forgetful, and not feeling as professional or competent as you know you are otherwise, right? All because of …. email.? Today, I’ll share 6 questions to ask yourself to figure out an email routine that will work for you. My own email routines will show you how the questions can work to create a routine.
- You will follow through consistently and be known for it, instead of things falling through the cracks.
- It will improve your mood for the day.
- You will control your day (not driven by the email firestorm).
- Your routine will stop those emotional emails you really shouldn’t have sent.
- Email clutter take up less time.
You’ll give email the time it needs and not more. And that means you buy back productive time.
Think about your email inbox. Is it helping you be more productive ? How are you doing with those 5 points above ?
6 questions to ask yourself. Create an email routine that works.
Email Routine #1: What’s allowed into your main screen?
How stressed do you get with emails? Be honest. You need to know how much you can tolerate to decide how much effort creating a few routines is worth to you. This is meant to make life easier, not add organizational time to something that doesn’t bother you much.
I’m complimented for being responsive, and I don’t want to breach any confidentiality, so I’ll use my email routines to give you an example.
My tipping point is more than one screen, so about 20 emails in my box.
One of my routines is to filter OUT emails which are not highest priority OR if they already have a time block on my calendar. For example, I am on a Board, so it is a second “job.” These emails automatically get filtered to a folder named “ICD read today.” These bypass my inbox. And I have a time block on my calendar. This separates different roles in my life. And the calendar time block acts a reminder, since the ICD email is in that folder but out of sight.
Other filters I’ve set up, so the emails go into the folder, bypassing my email inbox:
- social media notifications (GMail automatic)
- most newsletters. A few I “unfilter” to be sure I see them.
- promotions (GMail automatic)
- online purchase receipts
- the best “reading, listening for later” get saved to a Trello board
- personal things to do later [saved to a Trello board]
Email Routine #2: How will you declutter and prune
I use Unroll.me about 4 to 6 times a year to clear the clutter. Easy checkoff list approach. You go right down the full list of newsletters, promotions, one time freebies. Unroll.me does the unsubscribing for you.
A couple of times a week as I’m in my email anyway, I’ll skim through to see if I’ve forgotten anything or can delete anything. If super busy, I’ll at least do it on Fridays. .
Email Routine #3: What needs to be saved and where will you save it… to find it again easily?
It’s not about saving. It’s about finding. What is saved into email folders: (1) Work in process. (2) Possibly need to refer to, next time on this project. I ask myself why I need to keep it at all. That’s key.
Isn’t response time and excellent follow up the goal of a solid email routine ? A step towards better relationships, new clients, teamwork?
Acknowledgement sounds like: “Got it. I’ll think on it and get back to you by Friday.” In other words, “I have heard you.” And then set a reminder. Use Boomerang or a followup system to follow through on your word. Get back to the person in a specific time frame.
If you wait awhile until you have the full answer, here’s the impact on the other person: Did she forget? Is she ignoring me? Did I say something to upset her? Is she avoiding an answer for some reason – which is never a good one? And eventually, there is pure frustration at your lack of response. And perhaps dropping you as a recommended resource or referral.
Email Routine #5: How will you capture “to do’s?”
Here are my routines as examples for you:
- Responding to an email that requires some thought goes onto my to do list. or if it’s a good amount of time, onto my calendar [reviewing a proposal, a newsletter proposal – some sort of in depth response].
- If an email causes any kind of emotion, I put that one on my list to give myself some distance.
- If I say “I’ve got it” and “I will get back to you by xyz date,” that goes on my to do list, to ensure I meet my commitment.
- If it’s a phone call meeting, I put the call info right into the calendar entry and delete the email. Topics/agenda go into the calendar entry’s notes section. [Google calendar for me.]
- If It is a document for review, the document is attached to the meeting calendar entry. I make an appointment with myself prior to that meeting so I can be sure to HAVE the time to review and organize my thoughts.
Email Routine #6: How quickly and where do you read email?
When you read email, are you on the go, catching emails as you can, skimming quickly?
For email which is actual work or relationship building, skimming will prevent you from succeeding in your follow through and response time standards. You’re not putting enough thought into what you’re doing or saying. You’re not considering next steps.
After you’ve read an email, sit for a second and say to yourself: What do I need to do next on that email? Examples:
- add to calendar
- add a followup
- prepare for the meeting
- or in personal life, it might be: pick up cookies on the way to see friends; make a reminder to to bring back the borrowed book, etc.
If you’re not following through on your standards, or if your clients/colleagues are complaining, this is one of the business systems I work on with clients.
Let’s make your systems work for you so you can follow up, do what you say you’re going to do, lower your stress and come across as the competent professional you are.
Sue@CoachSueWest.com or 603.554.1948.