How to stay out of your inbox, communicate more effectively and be more productive.
Email is costing you money! - Stop it!
As we come to email’s 22nd birthday we need to ask whether we still want it around.
Despite the speed of communication becoming nearly instant we spend more time than ever trying to make sure we are on top of everything, often from the moment we wake with a smartphone in hand.
The old adage that time is money is especially true for your own business when you can see the price tag attached to every hour, not only is this costing you money it’s also killing the money you could have earned, so how much time is email organizing costing you?
According to the McKinsey Global Institute for the average person it is 13 hours a week.
13 hours a week spent not creating anything, not making sales or building new avenues for income, but, instead, 13 hours spent shuffling, deleting, and filing messages.
You already know why email is so inefficient.
Because you’ve spent years.......
Fishing messages out of spam folders, drafting overly formally messages to simply say “okay”,.
Looking up lists of contact emails to make sure everyone is CC’d in.
Skimming through emails that have nothing to do with you.
Putting off important tasks to reassure someone.
Perhaps you finally got hacked and your email address tried to sell Viagra to all one hundred of your clients.
The truth is that emailing is becoming old fashioned, it’s inefficient, it’s ugly, and it’s costing your business money in lost time you can never get back.
You wouldn’t dream of sending an email to a friend instead of using a text message or instant message app.
Why, because you don’t want to wait until they get around to reading the email, if they read it at all.
And yet you are happy to have this inefficiency in your professional life.
Email is a necessary tool for many aspects of business.
Don't get me wrong, not all time spent dealing with emails is unprofitable.
It’s still the best way of sending a a formal message to someone and creating long term trust and creditability with a customer.
However, when you are working on a project with a client or colleague, or you need to have frequent conversations or collaboration, there are many alternatives to email today.
In this article we will discuss how to use these alternatives in a system that will dramatically reduce time spent in your inbox.
HOW TO DEVELOP A SYSTEM THAT TAKES YOU OUT OF EMAIL
To reduce the amount of time wasted on email you will need to develop a new system for communicating with clients, colleagues, or customers that avoids you being stuck in the swamp of your emails trying to chase up or organize your messages.
What we are trying to develop is a system that prioritizes performing valuable actions, actions that earn you money, over unnecessary admin that has no financial value.
This will involve altering your system of communication in terms of your approach as well as the applications that you use to manage them.
The underlying philosophy I use in my business is known as the "Getting Things Done" model or GTD.
It’s a classic approach to tasks management and productivity and it remains popular for a reason.
The main idea behind the process is that it allows you to stop organizing things in your head and to start organizing them on paper: this lets you spend more time working and less time planning to work.
You can read more about the system in David Allen’s original book, but I will run down the basic five steps of the system here.
The first step is to capture:
Write down all of the work and tasks you need to get done regardless of how minor they might seem, from performing open heart surgery to refilling your fountain pen.
Then you need to clarify:
This means really describing what you need to do and breaking it down to all of the individuals steps of each task and how long they take you.
Next, you organise:
Putting your tasks in order of priority (including how soon you need to reply to an email) and when they need to be done, it may surprise you how some time consuming tasks are given very little priority in this system.
Then you reflect:
Once organised you reflect on the tasks outlined and see what you need to do right away and which tasks you cannot immediately start working on:
If you can’t start immediately on a task then it needs to be broken down further until you can. Finally you engage and start getting those tasks done.
So how does this system get you out of your inbox?
The problem with emails is that you spend time doing unnecessary tasks with them, but the GTD system does not give you time to do that. You will no longer waste time reading junk messages, deleting junk emails, or putting previously read message in cute folders, because it’s unlikely those things will ever enter your capture stage.
The GTD system is just one half of reducing the time spent playing with emails, you also need to start using alternative programs that let you implement the GTD system while you work with others and applications that naturally increase efficiency.
Let’s say writing an email takes you 15 minutes once you’ve got all the pleasantries decided and written out your message, if you were to use a collaborative message service like Slack you would spend 3 minutes quickly shooting off a message to your team, you’d only need to send one message that all your colleagues would receive, and you could correct yourself instantly.
FREE ALTERNATIVES TO USING EMAIL
Slack is a tool that has really taken off over the last few years and with good reason. It takes from the instant messaging services of the past and streamlines them for communication in project collaboration.
It gives you the format of a chat room while allowing for file sharing, code sharing, built in event reminders, group chat and it displays longer conversations in a way that is easy to access and search.
The site gives you the option of open and private channels, or chat rooms, where you can either have all team members talking freely or restrict the chat to just one or two members when you need to.
It even gives you the ability to send direct messages to individual team members.
Best of all you can say goodbye to spam and having to type out “Dear Steve” or “Yours Sincerely”.
Slack can be used cross platform as well, with its mobile app's. So you can continue project work while you are on the move.
I use Slack everyday! and it has significantly reduced the amount of internal email I receive from my team members.
You are likely familiar with Skype and while its video messaging service may have fallen in popularity thanks to other integrated smartphone applications, it has other features in its chat services, including file sharing and group chat, which make it a worthy alternative to regular email.
One of the advantages of Skype is that it works as an application for your desktop so you can have the advantages of instant messaging without having to re-check an inbox or pull yourself out of a task every time someone speaks to you.
If you are having trouble understanding each other you can then just hit call and work things out immediately.
Another great feature of the desktop app is the screen share option.
Once you are in a call you can simply select the share screen option and then your colleague can be shown a document your currently discussing or how to use a piece of software.
Statistically many of you will already be using WhatsApp in your personal life as it has over 900 million users, but it also has uses in your business.
It is a simple application that lets you send messages, images and videos via the internet for free but the real draw is that it works cross platform.
Instead of paying to send a text message between phone networks you can send a message for free at any time via the internet, to almost any modern phone and there is also a version that works for desktop computers.
If you need to contact someone regularly and quickly when they may not be around a computer this is a great option.
The group chat is also great for communicating as a business team. This gives you the option to set up group of specific contacts and send and receive messages for everyone within that group. you can also see the conversation going on without participating.
This could be a great option if you're planning and/or coordinating an event.
You could have the entire events team set up in a group, and even have sub groups (such as Audio / Visual Team or Hospitality) and communicate with each other in realtime throughout the event.
It also works country to country. So if you have a team member who is based outside of your country, and you can still communicate effectively, in real time.
Be careful though, some people you work with may del that WhatsApp is not an appropriate tool to use in business.
Make sure you check with the other person, that they are happy to be contacted via the app.
One great feature, that I'm using more and more, is the voice messaging.
At the push of a button, you can record a voice message, and once you release the button it sends the message to the contact or group.
This allows you to have a conversation back and forth, without the risk of interrupting each other!!
No typing or reading required.
It's fast and effective real time communication.
Trello is an application designed to integrate the GTD system easily into your life.
It has a series of what are essentially sticky notes that you can arrange into columns and organize your thoughts, ideas and tasks into simple chunks that mean you are always being productive.
Trello also works as a collaboration tool with others.
You can arrange group tasks into these columns and then with one glance you can see which tasks are being worked on, who is working on them, and how far along they are in the process.
Trello is a like an office white board that you can attach files, images and videos to while also integrating an instant messaging service.
You can simply place a message on one of the tasks being done and it will notify a colleague when you have mentioned them in a comment. This is a great tool to get you out of your inbox when collaborating with others or just to organize your work and life, and it works well with some of the other messaging services like Slack.
I've got a training video on how I use Trello to management my team. I even share the actual Trello board I use. - You can check it out here: Trello Training Video
Working on the same document with others via email is a nightmare.
You’ll end up with four different versions at various stages of the process and somebody will be using a PC while another will have a Mac.
With Google Docs you can invite others to view and edit the same document and each user’s changes will be noted with their own special colour.
By using Google Docs you don’t just reduce your time spent sending messages; you can avoid sending some of them altogether and when you do need to communicate there is a chat function and the ability to add comments to the document.
I use a Google Doc for our Podcast guest interview notes when recording Business Systems Explored podcast, with my Co-host Vinay.
As we don't see each other while recording, and we don't want to create to much additional editing by talking unnecessarily, we communicate via the Google Doc.
We have the show notes open during the interview, which give us an outline of the show, and some key questions for the guest.
We then type messages to each other on the Doc or in the chat box.
The great thing with this method, is that you don't get any notification pings going off during the recording.
If Trello is like an office whiteboard then Evernote is like a school backpack.
It is an application that allows you to keep all of your notes in one place from a variety of different sources.
This means you can have emails sent here, you can clip entire web pages or articles to it, open word documents, or just jot down your notes and scribbles.
Instead of emailing yourself work several times a day (I'm sure you don't still do that) you can have all you notes, files, web clipping all in one place and it can be accessed instantly across several different platforms whenever you need it.
It allows you to collect all of these notes into a project Notebook whci you can share with others working of the project.
Evernote also syncs everywhere - smartphone, tablet, desktop App and web browser.
The sync is almost instantaneous - and thou never have to worry about saving documents.
One feature I like about Evernote which has really helped declutter my inbox is the Evernote email address you get as a premium user.
This used to be accessible to all users - but they decided to use the feature as leverage to encourage existing users to upgrade.
The way it works is that you get an email address associated to your Evernote account which you can send things to which will be added as an Evernote file.
This is great for signing up to email newsletters.
No more inbox clutter - and you can filter through and keep the valuable stuff - and bin the rest.
The current chat system in Evernote works well for communicating with colleagues, but I think it needs some improvement - It's a bit clunky!
TAKE YOUR LIFE BACK FROM EMAIL
While it can seem, at first, that building a new system away from email is itself time consuming, you will find that working efficiently not only reduces times spent managing emails, but it also reduces time you need to spend working.
Learning to plan and effectively prioritize time you spend with your email will help you take back those 13 hours a week and will get you ready to revolutionize the rest of your business.
If you haven't already downloaded your Trello Team Management Training Video and Project Management board - You can check it out here: Trello Training Video