Let’s face it, most email are a waste of time.
How many hours every week do you spend in your inbox? 5 hours? 10 hours? 20 hours?
Just imagine for a second what you could accomplish if you had 10 or 20 hours more per week? What would you do with that newly gained time?
Would you spend it on strategic work, business development, inventing new things, being creative, launching new programs or initiatives?
Or would you spend it with your family? Would you read a book, travel or work on socially impactful projects?
If we can spend 80% less on email and use that time to do what inspires us, I believe our quality of life increases dramatically.
So here are fives steps that will lead you to email liberation.
By the way, I have created a list of 5 Tools to Spend Less Time on Email and More Time Being the Entrepreneur. Download it here.
1. Realize the Opportunity Costs
What are all the things you are not doing because you spend so much time in your email inbox? What could you be doing instead?
If you spend 20 hours per week in your email inbox and reduce that by 80%, you now have 16 hours per week that you can allocate to anything you want.
How much more energy would you have if you could spend that time on activities that inspire you? How much better would you feel if you spent 16 hours per week with your spouse and your kids?
You could finally work out again, do sports, meet with people who can have a big impact on your business, create new programs or initiatives, or invest your time in socially impactful projects.
The opportunity costs of spending a major part of your time on email are huge. Think about it, your unique superpowers are ways too powerful to be wasted on an excuse for being busy.
Ask yourself, what am I not doing because I spend so much time on email?
2. Free Yourself From Worrying
If we know that email is a big time-waster, why are we not simply stopping to spend most of our time on it?
It’s because we ask the “What if” question.
What if I miss an important email? What if I miss an opportunity because I don’t respond within 5 minutes? What if people won’t like that I only respond to emails once per day?
If that’s what the voice in your head says, it’s very important to have a structure in place that frees you from worrying about those questions.
There are many apps and software that can categorize your email, filter out the most important ones or stack unimportant email so you can screen through them once per week.
However, I have never found the perfect app. Maybe because apps are not intelligent and can only follow rules that are given to them. They don’t have a brain.
I personally don’t trust rigid software in a highly dynamic environment. That’s why I have a smart assistant who frees me from worrying about emails.
The first time I tested “I’m not going to check emails for two weeks” in 2013, I was not able to completely rely on the fact that nothing will happen if I just let my email sit in my inbox for two weeks.
So I told my assistant to look through my inbox, once every day, and if there was something she felt was important, to send me an email.
I had deactivated all notifications from email except for her email address. This meant I would only see emails that come from her and nothing else.
It worked out very well. I had peace of mind for the two weeks and she sent me two emails she felt were important.
This simple but profound system allowed me to fully enjoy my vacation for two weeks without having to worry about what was happening in my inbox.
Ask yourself, what system do I need to have in place so I don’t worry about important emails not being taken care of?
Once you realize the huge opportunity costs and free yourself from worrying about important emails, it’s time to eliminate.
Let’s analyze all emails that come into your inbox that you almost never look at and just delete. Maybe these are newsletters, promotions, updates, social media notifications, etc.
There is generally a large amount of these messages in the average inbox. Look at every one of those emails and ask yourself:
On a scale from 1-10, how big would the impact be if I never received these emails again? (1 being no impact, 10 being armageddon impact)
If you answered between 1 and 3, you can probably eliminate those emails without an issue. If you answered between 4 and 6, you may want to save them for the stacking process. If you answered between 7 and 10, you may want to save them for the outsourcing part.
After you eliminated what you can eliminate, let’s look at what you can stack.
You already have a list of emails to assess if you can stack them. Take your list of emails that you marked between a 4 and a 6 in the last step.
They may be updates you want to look at, comments on social media or newsletters you want to read from time to time.
Now, it makes no sense at all to have these emails come in all the time and distract you. You don’t need to read these emails the moment they come in, maybe you need to see them once per week.
I personally use unroll.me to stack these emails into one email per day as an overview and then look at these seven emails – one for each day – once per week. This takes me about 15 minutes per week.
This is my favorite because as I mentioned before, I prefer having a smart person look through my emails than having a rigid software do that for me.
However, before we can outsource, we need to make sure we have eliminated and stacked everything possible. It makes no sense at all to hand over emails to somebody else that can be eliminated or stacked.
I have seen many entrepreneurs try outsourcing and many have failed. It’s definitely not as easy as “Here is my inbox, now go do it”.
The most important ingredient for success in outsourcing is having the right person. Against all conventional wisdom, this has far less to do with the right skills than you might think.
It has much more to do with the person’s attitude and ability to understand how you think. The right person has to be a self-starter, somebody who can take initiative and is not afraid to ask or make mistakes.
The next most important ingredient is your ability to delegate. If the person you just hired is amazing but you are not delegating well enough, it’s most likely going to end in a disaster.
You have to set very clear expectations on what you want the outcome of tasks, responsibilities and projects to be. You have to encourage your team member to ask clarifying questions and allow time to let that person understand how you work.
If you value structure but your team member likes to do things on the fly and is allergic to planning, it’s likely not going to work out.
The basis for every successful relationships is a set of shared values. Everything else can be built upon that.
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