I only check my email once a day. On weekdays. I don’t read emails on weekends. I don’t have push notifications for new emails set up on my phone.
I start my workday by opening up my inbox. I work through everything in there. If it will take less than a few minutes, I do it right away. If it takes longer, I put it on my to do list. Then I close my email until the next morning.
The benefits are tremendous. I can focus on the task at hand. I’m not constantly wasting mental energy every time my inbox pings. I’m way more productive, more focused, and just plain happier.
Most frequently, when I tell people that this is how I run my business, I’m met with wide-eyed stares and proclamations of “I could never get away with that.”
But you could. Really. If you wanted to.
“But my clients email me all day long with urgent requests. They expect an answer within minutes.”
I’m a firm believer that we teach people how to treat us. Your clients expect answers to multiple urgent email requests every day because you’ve taught them that they can. And you can teach them differently.
It’s amazing what you can get away with when you set the right expectations.
One of the first conversations I have with any new or potential client is the email conversation. I let them know that I only read my emails once a day. If anything urgent comes up during the workday that requires my attention, then they’ll need to call me.
It’s as simple as that. And it works.
And in case you’re wondering if I’ve simply traded being inundated with emails for being inundated with phone calls all day long, the answer is no. I get just a couple phone calls a week from clients who have something that can’t wait until tomorrow morning. And the phone calls are so much friendlier and more personal than emails, too.
And also in case you’re wondering, yes, there are a small number of clients who won’t stand for once-a-day email contact. Because I’m up front about my policy, they naturally drop off and I don’t end up working with them – we’re not a good fit for one another anyway.
Now, this is super secret, and just between you and me, but I do occasionally break my own rules and sneak a look at my inbox in the afternoon, in the evening, or even over the weekend. Hey, I’m human.
But here’s my classified email ninja trick for those moments of weakness. Even if I do answer an email when I’m not supposed to be in my inbox, I make sure those responses don’t reach my clients’ inboxes until the morning of the next business day. I’ve been a huge fan of Boomerang for Gmail for that purpose for awhile now. (It has other handy features too, like returning an email to your inbox if it goes unanswered.)
This is all to say that it’s your business and you get to say what the rules are. If there’s something about your business that’s making you unhappy, you get to try some different things to change it up. I used to feel absolutely chained to my inbox and trapped by the constant barrage of emails. But I changed that. You’d be amazed what you can get away with when you set the right expectations up front with people. Take a look at your business, at your typical workday, and find the places where you can make a small and simple change that will make you happier and more productive.
Image credit: Morgan