A lot of people suffer from inbox paralysis. This happens when they receive so many emails — and believe they must respond to each one — that overwhelm takes over and leaves them inert. Sound familiar?
Even when you do respond to your emails, you probably end up stuck in your inbox for long periods of time. Email is basically invading our lives. To think about the impact of the inbox, consider these statistics:
- 2.4 million emails are sent every day.
- The average person receives nearly 121 emails each day.
- 50% of Americans check their inbox while in bed.
It’s easy to feel as if we’re chained to our inbox (much like our mobile phones). In reality, the inbox is a double-edged sword. Some people can focus on potential opportunities and good email content, while others complain, “Oh, this is such a time suck!”
To avoid inbox paralysis, you need to become conscious of how you use your inbox. At the same time, you’ll want to make sure you’re capitalizing on the opportunities presented therein. This means taking control of the situation and making sure you are getting the best possible results from the time you spend in your inbox.
One of the dangers lurking in your inbox is the notification. The red icon, or circle, that appears every time you get a new message. You must avoid being tempted by that! How? The following strategies will help you make sure that you are using your inbox more strategically.
The first strategy is called ‘Zero Inbox’ day
This is the strategy I use. Every Monday, I go through all of my emails and respond to every one. This means I’m responding to dozens of emails. And on some Mondays, I’ve responded to over a hundred emails!
Bur rather than scatter this out throughout the week, I prefer get it all done on one day so that I have another six days to address other areas of my business.
If you do a little here and a little there, you’ll end up losing focus and inbox paralysis kicks in. And it takes time to reposition that focus on the projects that you’re supposed to be working on.
So I choose one day to blow through all of the emails and get them done so I don’t have to worry about them for the next six days. Sure, there are lots of emails piling up during the week, but I only respond to the critical emails.
When I was planning my virtual summit, for example, I responded to every potential speaker or any speakers who had questions. I’m very particular about which emails I respond to during my six-day hiatus. But on Mondays, I respond to every single email that is addressed to me.
The second strategy is to shorten your responses
Basically, there are two things that control how long you stay in your inbox: the amount of emails addressed to you, and how long your responses are to each one of them.
If it takes you a minute to respond to 60 emails, averaging one minute per email, you’ll be in your inbox for an hour. But if it only takes you 30 seconds, on average, to respond to an email, and you’re responding to the same 60, you’re only in your inbox for 30 minutes. That is a big difference, and it all comes from writing shorter responses.
My rule of thumb for writing an email response is to keep it no longer than five sentences. Most often, it’s one to three sentences. I’m very quick with it. I have an automatic signature so I don’t have to reenter the same details over and over and over again.
And instead of writing, “Hello Name,” and hitting the enter button twice, I’ll sometimes just include the person’s name on the same line as the message. This basically allows me to write shorter responses, which in turn allows me to address more emails within a shorter period of time.
The people who are really busy and seem like they are getting hundreds, or even thousands, of emails every day, have the shortest responses.
That is very intentional because they have a whole bunch of people to get back to, and they also have projects they want to pursue.
Don’t be afraid to make your email responses a little shorter. Don’t be afraid of coming off as curt or anything like that. It’s just part of the nature of communicating with as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, so that you can free up time for the rest of your business. You can be short and still be polite.
The third strategy is to hire an assistant
You should take this step when you’re getting hundreds of emails every day that require your attention. The assistant can go through the emails that follow a certain rubric. For example, answer all emails that say, “Please be a guest on my podcast.”
It’ll be a different person with a different audience and different podcast link. But the assistant can go through all of them and answer based on your preset recommendations for how to proceed. A good assistant will determine whether or not the gig is a good fit and/or which emails need your personal attention.
You can also ask the assistant to address common questions, send out thank you notes, or answer others who have written to thank you. Still, I would proceed with caution when hiring an assistant. Personally, I respond to thank-you messages myself. The idea of someone using my email address to respond on my behalf makes me a bit uncomfortable. But it’s done all the time.
If you do use an assistant, be sure they respond to your audience the right way. I suggest monitoring the person for the first week. My own rule is to micromanage for three to seven days only, just until I’m sure that my assistant or freelancer is competent.
Analyzing every little thing that your freelancer does, or micromanaging everyone on your team, makes hiring them to free up your time pointless.
Make yourself available for questions and clarifications the first week. Once you’re confident in their skills, step back and let them do their thing. They can always reach out to you with questions. But you needn’t bother analyzing every single email they send on your behalf.
To save even more time, you can take it a step further and hire a manager who oversees your freelancers.
These are three strategies for spending less time in your inbox.
I hope you enjoyed them. If you know someone who might benefit from these tips, please share this post.
Do you have your own tips to share? If so, please leave a comment. I read them all (and sometimes I end up turning them into a video or blog post).
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But what I’d really like from you is to dream big, achieve greatness, and unlock your potential today.
Until next time,
*image credit: Pixabay.com