May 31, 2017

Email Hacks For Maximum Productivity (Part 1/6)

by Wil Schroter

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Chapter 1: REBUILD YOUR WORKFLOW

Email is not your friend. Email is like your obnoxious neighbor Chad who enjoys playing the bagpipes early Sunday morning. But, worse because on top of being kinda annoying, your email is cleverly disguised as a productivity enhancing super-buddy.  It slowly drains you of all your time, focus and output by constantly distracting you with other people’s demands, no matter how ridiculous they may be.

You want to spend time with your spouse, your kids, your dog, your best friend, your animatronic clown - but no, you’re spending time with email.

When you woke up this morning and checked your inbox, did email tell you that you it had saved you a bunch of time and you had the day off?  Did email do your work for you?

No!

Email asked if you’d be interested in buying a bunch of crap you don’t want.  Email made you attend a meeting with that annoying biz dev guy Ted. Email added 50 things to your task list that you may not ever even need to finish.
Did email invite you to a cool party that turned into an 80’s movie?  No, email most certainly did not.  Because email... is not your friend.

Taming the beast

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You don’t have to live like this, and we can show you how to change it.
We can show you how to build the tools and systems to make email work for you.  We can save you an incredible amount of time if you’re willing to just switch up some of the typical hat you’ve grown accustomed to.

We have 3 Goals for our Email Hacks:

  1. Spend as little time in email as possible. We’re going to employ every possible weapon to decrease the amount of email we need to pay attention to which will leave us more time to be productive, and even give us some of our personal life back (yay!)
  2. Appear incredibly responsive all the time. We’re not going to ignore email - quite the opposite. We’re going to look like we’re monitoring and responding to it all day and night. Spoiler alert - we’re actually going to spend far less time on it - so look at that - the joke’s on everyone else!
  3. Destroy all the time sucking aspects of Email. Email drains our time because we don’t process it properly. We’re going to learn to process better than your OS, so that we’re only spending time on critical stuff.
  4. All of these goals can be achieved by using a combination of hacks to streamline your workflow.

So, be sure to tune in for the next 5 weeks, and we’ll be sure to deliver the cure to the email addiction.

** Our Self Conscious Disclaimer **

While we make lots of references to using a virtual assistant it’s not just because we want you to use our virtual assistants (although you totally should).  Many of these tactics can be employed without the use of an assistant, or can be used with your existing soon-to-be-replaced-by-Zirtual assistant ;)   Changing your process is what’s important here - how you get it done is up to you.

CHAPTER ONE: REBUILD YOUR WORKFLOW

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In this chapter:

  • Focus on being productive, not checking your email.
  • Train your VA to respond to emails on your behalf

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Do you often feel as if you’re working for your email, instead of your email working for you?

You are not alone.

Tackling the unwieldy beast that is your inbox can feel like a full-time job. But, by taking a step back—and redefining your relationship with your inbox—can make the difference between a kick-ass day...or a day that kicks your ass.

The first challenge we’re going to tackle is the fact that you probably don’t have an email workflow to begin with.
Your workflow probably looks like this:

Spend every 9 minutes checking email.  Respond as soon as someone sends you anything.  Let email determine how your day is going to play out.

When it should look more like this:

Have someone else review your email.  Sort everything based on what you should spend time thinking about.  Check email once a day to see what’s changed. Focus on being productive, not checking email.

STOP READING YOUR EMAIL

Take a look at your inbox when you first wake up in the morning. Out of the 30 new messages you’ve gotten since you went to bed a few hours ago, how many of them are critically important?

Probably not many.

Yet you just spent a bunch of time scanning them, responding to them, filing them for later, and generally burning up valuable cycles just “processing” email. Was that lots of fun? No. Was it the most productive thing you’ll do today? Well, we certainly hope not.

The moment you start processing your own email—the vicious cycle of distraction begins. You now have 30 micro assignments that you have to think about that a few hours ago didn’t exist. You just gave yourself a ton of work, even if you went wild with the delete key, because you made the mistake of even processing this information to begin with.

Now imagine a magic email fairy could have read through all of those emails while you were in dreamland and left you with only two emails to read - the two that you actually should care about. What if that same said mythical-but-probably-alluding-to-a-virtual-assistant fairy could have sorted all of the other mail so that if you ever needed it, you could find it, but would probably never bother looking because it was filed away for a reason.

Two things just happened in that magical scenario.

  1. You just saved a small bit of critical early morning brainpower. The 28 other distractions never even had the chance to infect your brain.
  2. You’re only thinking about exactly two important things. And these are the most important things you should be thinking about. It’s like eating food where you only bite the tasty OR nutritious parts (which are oddly always very different).

MAKE YOUR VA YOUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE

To do this properly you need to start by making your VA your first line of email defense - all the time.

The goal here is to get you 100% laser focused on the most important stuff that you’re great at. The stuff that you get paid to do. Anything that’s not super important needs to go into the Recycle Bin of life.

To do this, you need your VA to have access to your email and be willing to train them on how to respond on your behalf. That training and the super ninja tips are what most of this guide is about.

BTW, if you’re a bit weirded out by having someone else read your email (other than the NSA, most first world governments, and your Network Administrator) you can setup filters within most email systems so that mail is automatically forwarded to your assistant based on who the contacts are. No one will ever know that you are Batwoman, we promise.

Once you’re willing to allow someone else to be the first set of eyes on your email (remember you can always check it if you really, really, really want to) you set the stage for putting some serious automation in place.

Rebuilding your workflow is the first of five critical steps to ensure your email is a tool for productivity—and not your arch nemesis.

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Protect your brainpower and team up with a Zirtual Assistant as your first line of defense.

Don’t miss out! Check out other posts within this series:

Email Newsletter

News & Resources for Delegation, Virtual Assistance & Improving Work-Life Balance