Five years ago I started a private family forum as a way for my mom, five brothers and sisters and our families to keep in touch and share photos of our kids and talk about our lives. Though it’s sort of like our own private family social network, it was started as a way to share without cluttering up everyone’s emails. Even five years ago email was a problem with me. I can receive up to 1,000 emails a day, mostly from people looking to learn how to break into blogging, social media or freelance writing. I can tell you that it is hard to keep this many emails under control each day. As a result, I’m finding ways to deal with people without dealing with emails.
Phone v. Mail
I’m finding I prefer the phone to email. With the phone I can usually take care of all business in one fell swoop without having to do a lot of back and forth with emails. I can ask questions and give expansive answers. I also have a better idea of how the party on the other end is feeling because I can tell from his tone. I find that the people I do business with feel they trust me more when they can hear my voice and that’s fine by me. The only time I don’t appreciate the phone is when others are abusive. For example when a client calls after 9:00 p.m. because he knows it’s a good time to get me at home. I handle that by making no mistake about the hours I’ll talk on the phone, and the hours I’m unavailable. One 15 – 30 minute phone call can cut down on up to a dozen back and forth emails.
I’m also digging Skype. It doesn’t matter if I use the phone, video or text function, it’s a way to have a discussion without cluttering up my inbox. Like the phone we can answers all those back and forth questions and make sure we’re clear on all the issues. My friends, colleagues and clients know that if my Skype is on, I’m available to talk. If it’s off, they’ll have to catch me the next day. If I’m in a meeting or on a call I can set my status to show I’m busy. However, if I set the green light, we’re good to go.
Face to Face
I don’t have many face to face meetings because most of the people I work with aren’t in this area, but I do try and arrange to do business at conferences and I’ll travel for important contracts and collaborations. Face to face is the absolute best way to communicate. I know meetings can be a time suck, but they can also be the most productive part of your day. Sitting with the person I’m doing business with allows me to get really creative. I can read the other person’s expressions and know if I’m on the right track. I can tell by his or her body language when it’s time to wrap things up and I can expand on all points of the conversation without having to worry about cluttering an inbox or running out of battery power. Plus, it’s that trust thing. People have more trust in those they meet than those they don’t meet.
Let’s get to the meat of the matter, though. This is really all about how I receive an obscene amount of email today and it’s taking over my life. Most of the time, it’s a matter of organzing my email as well as the time I spend responding. My biggest problem is that I don’t always have time to respond immediately and if I don’t respond immediately emails get buried. Here are some practices I’ve been implementing to better organize my email – and my time:
- Sort email into folders: I delete all spam and silliness and sort emails into folders to deal with at the designated time.
- Set a time to respond to email: Instead of checking my inbox throughout the day, I have scheduled time. During that time, I sort new email and respond to the most pressing emails in each folder. Sometimes I’ll send emails out to let people know I haven’t forgotten about them or lost their email, but I will respond within the next couple of days. I don’t like anyone to feel ignored.
- As outlined above, I find other methods of communication so my email doesn’t take over my life.
Now it’s time for you to share. How much email do you receive each day and how do you keep it in check?