Taming the Voracious Inbox
People say it all the time, “The only thing guaranteed in life is death and taxes.” The truth is, the one thing that is inevitable (as well as constant in our lives) is change. We are faced with it everyday. Sometimes its expected, sometimes a surprise. For some, the idea of change is terrifying, and others welcome it with open arms. Psychologically, everyone believes that they can change themselves, yet disbelieve change in others — even when they see it for themselves. I believe everyone is capable, except my ex-wife (The Blonde) I really don’t think that woman will ever change! Ha!
After exactly a year of writing the “Businessman and the Blonde” it is time for it to end. Welcome to “Keeping It Juicy” — The Blonde is dead.
This column will still be about the balance between work and life, with a little bit of life hacking thrown in. My life now belongs with a wonderful brunette who many of you have met. Her presence in my life has helped.
The “Sexy Advertising Network” reached its goals this past year of building a better ad network, not just a bigger one. My writing will still be about the challenges of being an entrepreneur. My struggles against The Blonde will still be touched on. She relentlessly made running my business “difficult” and lets be honest, crazy makes for good reading.
In the July 2014 issue of XBIZ World I was interviewed about JuicyAds and about what my everyday life is like as “Mr. Super Hands-on” I spoke about handling over 300 emails per day. Email has been a nemesis to me for many years, I’ve even used it as a to-do list (don’t do that).
I found myself dreading my inbox and constantly apologizing to people about replying slowly to email. It still happens from time to time but its taken strong discipline to combat a monster inbox with the continued growth of JuicyAds. Here’s how I tackled the beast:
The pitfalls of multitasking are many and even when you make a conscious decision to actually delve into the abyss of your inbox, its easy to get distracted and fail to meet your goals. Schedule specific times to check your email, with the expectation that work will spawn from it. To avoid getting distracted during the day only check email once or twice per day. Accomplish any “must do” tasks before ever opening your inbox. Ignorance is bliss and anything you haven’t read yet can’t be handled yet, either. At least get your already scheduled tasks out of the way before piling more onto yourself.
Read, decide, take action. Clutter is caused by a delayed decision, regardless of if its email, or some thing lying around the house that hasn’t been “put away.” If it has no home (a final decision) then it will always be clutter, and always be in your way. There’s always the delete button, right?
Take Solid Action Instead Of Bouncing Emails Back And Forth
What good is it if you’re doing all the work to reply and go through your emails, only to find the email comes back because no action was really taken? When I would attempt to tame the horde it would cause this blow-back effect where suddenly I’d get a ton of replies and not only would it add back to the mountain again, but I’d get discouraged too. The end result? I didn’t have the energy to manage the mountain at all and I would fall behind again. It was endless.
The best email you will ever write is the one you don’t (and after the Sony hacking scandal, maybe reconsider sending some emails altogether). Keep email replies short and anything longer, try to pick up the phone. It will save you time bouncing ideas and thoughts together. This is somewhat contradictory for me because I hate the phone, but a friend once told me that texting / email is for information; calling is for conversations. He was right.
Get Rid Of The Obvious Junk
Go through your spam folders and mark anything that’s not spam and delete everything else. Many spam messages are actually legit emails or newsletters you are subscribed to. I do this first every day since its usually easy to weed and be done with it. It avoids moments like, “oh, I’m sorry I didn’t get that email, it must have gone to my spam folder.”
Stop all subscriptions to stuff you simply don’t want and don’t care about. This would seem obvious, but its often easier to just “delete” and forget about it. It takes a minute to unsubscribe but will save time in the long run. We already spend 13 hours a week (that’s 28 percent of your work week) handling email (according to the McKinsey Global Institute), don’t waste one ounce of energy on stuff you don’t care about and have the control to stop. If you have any frequent email subscriptions that you almost never read, change your preferences. Many companies now offer a weekly or monthly subscription instead of daily blasts. If you still find yourself deleting them, completely unsubscribe from them. Turning off these emails will also reduce your impulses and invented need of buying. It will save you money, too.
Beware Of Spammers
Unsubscribing works for legitimate companies and newsletters you are part of, but clicking “unsubscribe” sends spammers a message that you are an active person reading what they are sending, and they will send more. Lots more. Some people say this doesn’t happen but my inbox full of Portugese spam (from unsubscribe attempts) says otherwise. Sadly, its better to just delete these than to unsubscribe.
Batch Similar Messages
When you reach one type of email that you know you get many of, use the find/search feature and handle them all at once. Its easier to manage the same type of correspondence at once rather than always switching gears and having to re-evaluate what it is that you’re looking at. This also works to group together emails from the same person to avoid replying to a later email and then possibly re-replying later thinking you didn’t.
Be Short (When Possible)
Some people try to create these rules like keeping your email under a certain number of characters. Sure. Try it. These emails often appear rude and disrespectful. Try to send short replies, but take the time to give people respect when the topic requires it.
Go Beyond The Email
Is the email related to an ongoing issue or something that’s happening often? Consider tackling the core issue instead of replying to the emails, actually solve the problem or come up with a better solution. Your inbox will thank you for avoiding dozens or hundreds of future messages.
Got more tips to clear your inbox? Tweet them to @juicyads #KeepingItJuicy.