In This Episode…
Getting on top of how I deal with e mail has been one of my main process tasks. I identified it was an important thing to address over 3 weeks ago. I put it on a list of things to do and over the last week it has come to the top of that list.
A couple of recent episodes talked about a) the importance of the task and b) why I might be putting things off.
So today I finally bit the bullet and did a thorough examination of my e mail in box to get to the bottom of what is going on with my behaviour around e mail.
Unfortunately it identified some things I really did not want to hear! Listen in to find out more.
Episode Show Notes To Follow…
00:10 – Today’s episode is going to be a running account of my efforts to get to the bottom of how I’ve been dealing with e mail.
00:37 – Yesterday, I did an episode where I talked about how long can I sustain putting off something I know needs dealing with.
00:14 – Let me start by sharing my e mail set up:
- I use Gmail as my primary e mail client.
- I label all my emails to allow me to search for related messages much more easily.
- I use filters to automatically label e mails from known sources.
- I also use filters to automatically archive e mails from sources I want to monitor but not necessarily have go straight to my inbox.
03:01 – In terms of dealing with e mails, I take this approach:
- I DON’T open up my e mail as the first thing I do in the morning.
- I generally check e mail twice a day for 30 minutes – at 11:00am and 3:00pm.
- I shut down the e mail browser window try an avoid going in to my e mail account outside of those time unless the task I am working on specifically requires me to write or read an e mail.
- I have turned off any notifications for the arrival of new e mail on my Mac, iPhone and iPad.
05:52 – These are the basic principles I apply and are the staple of my e mail recommendations I make in my personal productivity seminars and productivity coaching.
06:05 – Let me talk about my feelings about e mail.
06:09 – Let’s not forget that e mail is a very powerful tool [when used properly]. The ability and convenience of being able to communicate and send information to someone else, anywhere in the world, instantaneously is a really powerful thing.
06:54 – Unfortunately the convenience of e mails has become abused. Whenever I work with either an individual or in an organisation I have found that the e mail culture is a good indicator of how dysfunctional they are.
08:07 – I am now turning that spotlight back on myself.
- Sometimes I don’t check my e mail
- When I do check my e mail, sometimes I put off opening some messages.
08:40 – Why do I think this is the case?
- Perhaps because of a fear of what might be in there.
- Perhaps because it is going to be too difficult (complex) to deal with.
- Perhaps because I’m not sure I’ll know what to do with it.
09:04 – So I find myself adopting a head in the sand approach to dealing with many e mails I get [I’m embarrassed to admit!].
09:15 – If I did some form of 5 Why analysis, I may find it’s because I don’t (or didn’t) feel good enough, or that I’m indecisive or that I just lack confidence sometimes.
09:41 – Last year I did an episode where I did a Theory of Constraints analysis on why I was struggling to make progress. It identified a lack of goals and a fixed mindset as root causes. I have since worked on both of those.
10:13 – This head in the sand approach has cost me (financially) a number of times.
- I’ve ignored e mails from my web hosting telling me they were going to shift a payment plan from monthly to three- yearly – ouch that was expensive!
- I’ve had unwanted domain names renew automatically.
- I’ve been double charged for 18 months for my Spotify account.
11:55 – Through this self analysis of the way I deal with e mails, I am spotting my own organisational dysfunctonality.
12:15 – Whilst there is a lot of stuff I am sure I can unearth about my psychology, today I am going to focus on the processes of my business that might be lacking that cause me to have an e mail blockage in my business.
12:31 – Today, I am going to audit my e mail inbox and see what I can find.
13:16 – If e mails don’t come in and get dealt with straight away I am either not clear about them, they’re not relevant to my current activities or I don’t have a process or system in place for whatever it is about.
13:30 – “Dealing” with e mail might be deleting or just filing and ignoring it. Having the ability to identify whether an e mail is relevant or not is a key skill to develop.
13:51 – Something I remind all the delegates on my productivity seminars and all of my coaching clients is that their job is not to answer e mail. E mail is just a tool to help do their job with.
Your job is not to answer e mail. E mail is just a tool to help you do your job.Michael Tipper
At My Mac And In My Gmail Inbox – Getting Rid Of The Easy E Mails
14:55 – Now I am about to open my e mail account for the first time today.
15:24 – I have 104 e mails – the latest one came in 34 minutes ago and the oldest one I’ve not dealt with goes back to April 2018! That’s a perfect example of just how much I have put my head in the sand with some e mails!
16:49 – As an aside, the subject line is a good way to filter the emails you read. Conversely, when you write an e mail, spending time on the subject line is a good investment because its job is to get the reader to open the email in the first place.
17:12 – My favourite quote comes from Chip and Dan Heath and illustrates why getting the subject line right is so important:
Resistance is often the lack of clarity.Chip and Dan Heath
17:29 – I talk through some of the obvious e mails that are easy to deal with.
18:55 – Using filters to automatically label an e mail helps in identifying those important (or not) to read. I have a filter that automatically identifies e-commerce promotional e mails so I can easily sort and file them with minimal effort or thinking time.
20:50 – In just a few minutes I am able to reduce my e mail inbox from 104 down to 89. This is the first phase of how I will deal with e mail – get rid of the low hanging fruit first.
Diving Deeper Into The Emails That Are Left
22:01 – I have just spent a little time dealing with some of the more involved e mails. Those that required just a little bit of effort to process. These included filing some e mail receipts into my book keeping system.
23:08 – A perfect example of an e mail that would clog up my inbox, wallowing around waiting for me to get closure on is one from a guy called Sam Ovens who helps people develop consulting businesses. It is a content rich e mail with links to a video with content that will be useful for my business.
24:45 – Before last week, I didn’t have a system to scoop up e mails like this. Now this can be put into my research and ideas system quite easily.
25:40 – Another example of an e mail that I’d give a stiff ignoring to is one from my Book Keeper asking me to go and do something technical with my bank accounts and the links to my online book keeping package.
26:21 – This is a perfect example of an e mail I would procrastinate over.
26:53 – I generally create mental monsters out of e mails like this because of the unknown but usually when I finally get round to them, they are relatively simple to deal with.
27:07 – This comes back to the underlying issues of not feeling good enough or being indecisive or lacking confidence sometimes. There is still probably deeper work to go and do.
27:55 – Other e mails that would have been avoided included:
- One from my private health care provider wanting me to go to their (slow) website to check for a message they have sent me.
- A sales message from my web hosting company disguised as a warning there might be security gaps in my website.
- A request to outline my travel requirements for a seminar tour around Easter so bookings can be made.
- One from my accountant asking me to approve my personal tax return.
29:29 – I am starting to see that I am possibly at the extent of my abilities to run my existing business on my own and that I probably need to start getting other people in to do some of the things that i can’t or that I shouldn’t be doing.
30:10 – Hiring and employing someone to manage my podcast is the last item on the list of 6 things to focus on identified in Episode 175.
32:01 – Another example is an e mail from someone on LinkedIn. They connected with me earlier in the week and help small businesses in my area network. They are a perfect candidate for approaching about delivering my keynote speech on productivity.
32:23 – Before this week their e mail would have languished around the inbox because I didn’t have anything to send them. Earlier this week I had spotted this as a shortfall and have since put something together. This was triggered by this e mail.
32:40 – Diving deeper into these e mails has been a bigger task than I expected. There are three characteristics that jumped out at me:
- My indecisiveness about courses of action I need to take in my business.
- Potentially useful information clogging up the inbox waiting to be read and digested. (I now have a system for research and idea generation that will absorb those quite easily).
- There are a lot of e mails about website technical issues that I don’t have the knowledge or skills to be able to handle immediately.
36:44 – Whilst I have not made the progress I wanted to with my inbox today, I have got a much better feel for the problems at hand.
37:51 – I’ll remind myself my job is not to answer e mails. However I do need to have a good system in place to deal with the ones I need to process.
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