Do you ever get overwhelmed by your email inbox?
Are you in control, or is your email inbox or does it control you?
In this post, I'm going to share 5 steps to get you back in the drivers seat and be able to handle it all in 30 minutes a day (or less).
The Email Problem
A few years ago, I made the decision to hire a virtual assistant. One of the important tasks I had my V.A. work on is managing my email.
Why? Simple – because it was sucking up a lot of my time, making it difficult for me to focus on the things in my business that contribute to growth. This took a tremendous load off my back, and I was able to focus on building.
Due to a series of events, I've taken back control of my email inbox (hopefully only temporarily). Here's the problem – somehow I haven't figured out how to add a few more hours to my day. So, I decided to take a more strategic approach to managing this little (or HUMONGOUS) problem.
Here are the steps I am taking:
Step #1: Make the tough decisions
Before you can implement a solid email strategy, you need to make some decisions as to what the role of email will be in your life and your business.
Is that the medium you will use to communicate, answer questions, and offer support? Are there certain things that are better dealt with using other methods?
This is a tough one for me, because I like to help people. I'm a helpaholic and I want to make sure that my community is well taken care of.
However, sometimes you have to decide to make sacrifices that seem to go against the norm to build something significant while not sucking all your time.
For me, I decided that my time is better spent answering questions in a public way, so that others can benefit from the answers I provide. The way I'm choosing to do this is by using my podcast. When someone sends me an email with a general blogging-related question, I will reply with a very friendly canned response (more on this later) letting them know how to get their questions answered.
Besides that, all of the customer support will happen via email. That part is unavoidable based on where my business is and the direction I'm headed. What will YOU be dealing with via email, and more importantly, what WON'T you be dealing with?
I'm very much aware that some people will not like my decision. However, when I weigh my options, I know that I'm making the best decision I can to be able to offer value, while not being completely overwhelmed and inefficient.
Step 2: Plan your email schedule
If you're anything like me, you have a problem. You have a tendency to check your email at least 5 billion times daily.
Unfortunately, if it only takes you 10 minutes each time, but you check your email 10 times. That's 100 minutes, or 1 hour and 40 minutes of your day.
Lets stop the madness right now! One of the things that have become extremely obvious to me is that batch processing saves a ton of time.
Instead of checking your email at random times all throughout the day, make a decision as to how often you will check in and when. Then, STICK TO THAT SCHEDULE (I'm talking more to myself than to you).
So here's my schedule – I will check my email twice daily. Once at 10am and once again at 6pm and I'll be spending a maximum of 15 minutes at a time. That's it (well, at least that's the plan)! What's your schedule going to be?
Step 3: Create canned responses
I spent my morning going through a bunch of my emails and the responses my VA had sent in response. There was one glaringly obvious fact – many of the emails were almost identical.
So, I decided to go through those emails and pull out the similar ones and come up with some awesome canned responses that I could easily use, instead of always having to come up with individual responses.
So far I've written canned responses for the following situations:
- Someone sends a request to interview me on their show
- Someone sends me an email asking me to promote one of their “super amazing” products
- Someone submits a writer application and I want them to write for us
- Someone submits a writer application and there's no way they are writing for us
- Someone is having problems accessing the site
As I move forward, whenever I get an email with a question/concern that I believe I will get many more of, I will create a detailed message once and add it to my canned responses list.
Oh, and while we're on the topic of canned responses, please don't make your canned responses all impersonal and stuffy sounding. Even when you're dealing with a frustrated customer, you want to make sure that you're putting your best foot forward. Here's an example canned response that I made for when people are having problems accessing my site due to server errors.
Step 4: Create tutorials that answer common questions
Canned responses are great. What's even better is if you can answer your most common questions on your blog and provide them with a link to the answer.
That way you are not only being efficient, but your also giving them the help they are looking right on the spot, and probably in much more detail than you could do in any single email.
If, for example, if someone sends me an email letting me know that they are thinking about starting a multi-author blog, I can easily tell them to check out this post and they'll get my best advice on the topic.
Of course, I'd be using a canned response to let them know to check it out. I gotta be efficient 😉
Step 5: Monitor and tweak
When it comes to managing your email, it's no one size fits all thing, and definitely not a one time deal. It's a process. It all boils down to taking action, getting results and then analyzing those results to see what works and, more importantly, what doesn't.
How are people responding to your canned responses? Should you tweak them?
Are there times that work better for you when it comes to checking your email?
Are you more efficient when you check your email once daily rather than twice?
It's your responsibility to analyze your progress on a regular basis and make decisions as to how to increase your efficiency.
Remember, email is a necessary evil, but if you don't control it, it will control you – and we just can't have that, can we?
What are your tips?
I'm sure you have tried some email management strategies in the past that have worked (or haven't worked) for you and I'd love to hear them. Leave your tips below based on your experiences.