I wouldn't have believed it if it weren't staring me in the face: "You have unsubscribed from 561 lists". Yes. I was subscribed to 561 lists -- and that was just from one of my email addresses. There were others too; 335 lists and 32 lists. So let's see, that's 928 blogs, experts, coaches and who knows what else that were sending me emails. If each of them sent me just one email per week that would be 48,256 emails per year. Talk about email overload! The truth was -- that I wasn't really reading all these emails, and I noticed something else (see if you do this too), I was reading each email and comparing myself to what they were doing. This was not a good thing. After a few months, I realized that these emails weren't contributing to my marketing, they were contributing to my overwhelm. And if you find yourself either ignoring the plethora of emails you are getting or you find yourself reading them and getting depressed - it's time to clean your inbox an start unsubscribing.
1. Declutter and unsubscribe at least twice per year
In the same way that you declutter a junk drawer or a closet, you need to declutter your inbox. Don't let this wonderful opportunity go to waste. The choices you make in which emails to keep as subscriptions and which to unsubscribe to will show you what you value AND what these marketers are doing well. It's a good idea to sit down with a notebook and write down which folks you will continue to receive emails from and WHY. What is it about these emails that keeps you coming back for more. This will be a lesson to you for future marketing endeavors.
2. If you can't decide -- automate
If you started doing step #1 and found you couldn't decide - don't worry. You can try my method which is to unsubscribe from everything and resubscribe to the ones you really miss. There are two ways to do this; go through your inbox and just click on unsubscribe links at the bottom of the emails. If you have a hard time finding those, try this great little extension from Chrome - "Unsubscribe button"
If you're looking for something even easier, try Unroll.me. This is the tool that I used and I have to say, it's WONDERFUL. Unroll.Me allows you to mass unsubscribe from the email subscriptions you no longer want to receive (or probably just signed up for by accident while making a purchase or enter a contest 5 years ago). For the subscriptions you want to keep but don’t want cluttering your inbox, they have a daily digest email called the Rollup. Rollup creates a digest for you to review on YOUR time. You can set it to collect these emails daily, weekly, however often you like. The big benefit is that it's NOT in your inbox.
Another option of heard of, but not tried is Swizzle. Swizzle will take all of your email newsletter subscriptions and wrangle them into a single email for you to look at.
3. Convert emails to tasks
Years ago I was working with an organizational expert who told me that the biggest sin of all was using your email as a task list. Guilty as charged. I've never given up that habit. If it isn't in my email, it isn't going to get done. That's just all there is to it. The other challenge is that a lot of emails contain important directions or attachments that I want to reference, so writing a separate task somewhere else, really doesn't work for me. Google has already thought of this with their integrated email and calendar system. I transitioned my business 100% to Google Apps back in 2008 and I haven't looked back since. This is , by far, the cheapest and highest value system that I use in my business. I use Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Contacts as the magical trifecta for my business. When I receive an email, I can turn it into a task or an event. Once I do this, I can archive it (removing it from my inbox) and simply use the Google Tasks and/or Google Calendar to see what I have to do and when I have to do it. Truly, it's simple and easy. I have paid for project management tools, tried different email and calendar programs both free and paid but I've always gone back to the Google system. My inbox is at zero emails 95% of the time. This is how my email inbox looks as I write this And this is a shot of my Google Calendar with tasks/emails in it
4. Create "canned responses" or email templates for frequently sent emails
Gmail has a wonderful feature called "canned response" that I absolutely love! This is the ideal email template feature if you find yourself sending the same kind of email over and over again. In my world, I get requests for guest posting or guidelines for guest posts, etc. After writing the same email over and over, I got wise and create a "canned response". Simply write ONE basic email with all of the pertinent information on it and save it as a template. Then when you have to respond for the one thousandth time with the same information -- BOOM - you pull up that email template and just add the recipient, personalize it a little bit and click SEND. This will eliminate a huge chunk of email overload. If you have enough of these, you can actually gain a whole hour of your day!
5. Use an online scheduling system to reduce scheduling back-and-forth
How many times have you tried to schedule a meeting and gone back and forth with dates and times. This can take forever and be a ridiculous waste of time. My solution for this is to use an online scheduling tool. I've tried a ton of them and my recommendation after spending a couple hundred dollars and more than six months of trial and error is....ScheduleOnce. This tool allows you to create a wonderful calendar page that is linked to your calendar and allows you to customize when you want to have meetings, how many meetings you want to have and how long they are. Not only this, it automatically adjusts the time zone for you and for the people you are meeting with. So -- no more emails back and forth on when to meet, where to meet, and what time zone or who is calling whom? All of those emails are now -- UNNECESSARY. YAY!
6. Write "if-then" emails
This tip comes from the master of simplifying, Tim Ferris, author of 4-Hour Work Week where he recommends front-loading decisions inside of an email to reduce the number of exchanges. For example, instead of asking open ended questions in emails, consider where you could ask an "if-then" question: Can you meet at 2:00pm Eastern? If not, please suggest three times that work best for you.
7. Say NO
This isn't really an email decluttering strategy as it is a strategy for staying focused on your marketing plan and your business. If there's anything I've noticed, it's that a single email or email request can derail your business, your strategy and ultimately your bottom line. Perhaps the best email overload strategy by far -- is being focused on what you are doing and creating and saying NO to anything that threatens to take you off track. If you struggle with saying "No", look back at tip #4 and write an email template or canned response that simply says "Thanks, but no thanks" -- and whenever a request shows us that threatens to take you off track, just click, cut, paste and send. There is no perfect system of getting out of overwhelm, only one that works for you. And if you find yourself constantly ending your days feeling exhausted and yet having not completed what you set out to do, then it's time to put yourself and your business first. Turn off the computer and the email, sit quietly and decide on what the most important things are for you to do that day. Only then are you allowed to open the email and respond accordingly. photo credit: loop_oh via photopin cc