So I’ve mentioned a few times here and on Twitter that on most days I only check my email twice a day – once in the morning and once late in the afternoon. And people are generally a little perplexed as to how I’m able to pull this off. The truth is…I just do it. I don’t have alerts set up on my phone and I don’t keep my inbox open in my browser when I’m not actively answering email. But I know a Nike slogan is not what you want to hear, so here’s a breakdown of how you can accomplish inbox domination as well.
My strategy is two-fold. First, I put processes in place to lower the number of emails I receive each day. And second, I reduce the possibility that an alert or notification will catch my attention.
Turn off alerts on your phone
I would absolutely, 100 percent lose my mind if my phone went off every time there was a new email. It would break my concentration, it would stress me out, it would lead to multi-tasking, which never works. I turned my alerts off three years ago when I was actually here in San Diego on vacation and I never went back.
If you have not used Inbox Pause before, you. will. love it. Basically it mutes your inbox for however long you like. You can set a response so people know you’re unavailable, but I like to operate under the idea that there are rarely internet emergencies, so I just shut that sucker off for a few hours. No one has died yet! I don’t know anyone who has the power to ignore that little ‘you’ve got mail’ indicator when email is open in a browser tab, so Inbox Pause is a great way to stop email from interrupting you for a few hours.
Create a contact page
Instead of adding your email address throughout your site, try creating a contact page. Be specific about what types of emails you respond to and offer readers a list of options to find the information they’re looking for BEFORE they send you an email. You could even get crazy and add a form with a text limit to make for a shorter email once they do hit send.
Add an FAQ page
I’ve also been able to whittle down the amount of email I receive each day by adding a list of frequently asked questions and frequently requested blog posts to my contact page. Most people are kind enough to take a minute to check over the list to make sure I didn’t long ago write a post that answers their exact question before shooting me an email. And I make sure to keep the list updated as new questions come in.
Wait 24 hours
I get a ton of How do I make this work??? tech questions. And a lot of times, instead of sending an email right away, I give people a little while to work through it on their own. 90 percent of the time I get a follow-up a few hours or even minutes later saying, “Never mind! I figured it out!”
Make it a policy
People rarely argue when you have a policy in place. You can add it to your contact page or the bottom of your emails or even in a nice little autoresponder. They’ll also panic less (and send less follow-up emails) when they don’t hear back immediately because they know how long it takes for you to respond. You also have every right to say, “I respond to emails about _____. For information about _____, go here.” #itsmypolicy
If you’re having serious email issues, I would definitely recommend hiring someone to help you out. Hell – hire someone even if you’ve kinda got it under control! I recently decided to hire a VA to help with, among other things, customer service and reader emails. This means if someone has a question that does not require a personal response from me, my lovely VA, Casey, will take care of it. She’ll probably even get back to you quicker than I would! This not only helps keep my inbox clear, but has also cut down on my stress levels quite a bit!
Just do it
Yep, this is my go-to answer for everything. Just try it and see what happens. Seriously – turn off the alerts on your phone, close that tab, hit inbox pause, and focus on actual work instead of pinging between tasks all day long. All your email will be there when you reopen it and no one will hate you for waiting a few hours or even ::GASP:: a few days!
Actually answer email every time you open your inbox
OK, this is really the number one rule… When you open your inbox to go through your email, you need to be quickly answering, deleting, or filing EVERYTHING. Don’t read emails that will take a few minutes to answer and then close them and read the next and the next and the next. That is called procrastination and procrastination is a waste of time. Also, don’t write 15 paragraphs when it could be explained in two. If you open and read an email, do something with it. Period.