~by Wendy Kuhn~
I worked for a boss once whose email management strategy was to have me review all of his emails and bring those that were important to his attention. While flawed, this strategy could have worked except that he was never willing to discuss my list of his important emails.
Now I have my own business and email is crucial to my success, yet I found I had to stop and think about the best way to use it to maximize efficiency and minimize stress. Those of us who have chosen to step away from Corporate America and invent or re-invent ourselves also have to manage life in the digital age.
A few of my favorite email coping strategies:
- Roll with it. I like supporting and learning from fellow solo-preneurs, but sometimes I end up with so many subscription emails in my inbox that I am too overwhelmed to see what they have to say, and I miss important emails. Then I found unroll.me, one of several tools that allowed me to unsubscribe from lists, and to see a daily digest of all the subscriptions that I enjoy reviewing at my leisure.
- Schedule it. While not possible for all people in all jobs, set specific blocks of time to read and respond to emails. Setting an alert for urgent emails might make this easier. It is also possible to schedule sending email if that helps. Check out Boomerang or other tools.
- Don’t go to bed with it. One of the joys of being a solo-preneur is that I won’t get an email from a boss yelling at me at 11:00 at night, as I used to. Now, I often get fun and interesting work related emails late in the day, but even these can interfere with sleep. I try not to email after a certain time in the evening or before a certain time in the morning. There is scientific evidence that time spent on a computer screen in the two hours before bed significantly interferes with sleep. Poor or insufficient sleep directly impacts job performance.
- Read it. Read the entire email. Especially on mobile devices, it is possible to miss part of an email by accidentally not scrolling all the way down. Missing a key part of an email exchange can lead to a huge email miscommunication, which is both a time and energy drain.
- Use a computer to respond. Responding to important or long emails from a smart phone, unless absolutely necessary, can lead to miscommunication. Most of the time, for important issues it is better to have a moment to think about it rather than responding on the run. Responding on a larger device is easier and will enable a more thoughtful response.
- No Affect. Even with emoticons, email does not convey affect very well. This often leads to miscommunication, hurt feelings, or lost business. In the midst of a frustrating email conversation, the other person or people might be equally frustrated. Pick up a phone and call or walk down the hall to have an actual conversation.
- B-r-e-a-t-h-e. It’s easy to feel hurried when responding to an email; don’t give in to the temptation to just get one more thing off of your plate. Rather, on important email responses, take a deep breath before hitting send and be sure it says the right thing in the right way. I often take a moment to practice HeartMath™ at these times. Consider that the recipient will not be able to see your face or hear your voice. Ask the questions, “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?”. Similarly, when reading an email that seems distressing, take a moment to breathe and re-read it. I try to ask myself whether it is likely that this person is actually saying what I think they are saying, and to consider that I might be reading too much or too little into it. In the moment, all of this feels like it requires time that is not available, but an extra twenty or thirty seconds up front may save not only time down the road but also anxiety and stress as well as money and clients.
- Don’t hit send when you are angry. Anger clouds judgment. Even if anger is justified, an angry response will often exacerbate the problem and reflect poorly on the sender. Wait until the anger subsides when it is easier to articulate a more strategic, thoughtful and effective response. Another option is to write an email response but not send it until the next morning when the anger has cleared. My strategy on these emails is to leave the To: field blank as I have inadvertently sent emails I meant to sit on for a day.
Most days I have no interest in moving off of the grid and there is much about email that I enjoy. I like that I can respond to someone when I want and that I can be thoughtful in my replies whereas sometimes on the phone I offer my first thought rather than my best thought. As someone with horrible handwriting, I like the ease of typing my correspondence, and I thoroughly enjoy the easy, casual way I can keep up with friends and colleagues all over the world. At the same time, all too often I find myself checking email rather than being fully present in the moment or feeling anxious about an email rather than considering that I may have misinterpreted its intent. I hope that by adopting two or three or four of these suggestions, you are able to better focus your energies and enjoy your email more.
Meet the Author: Wendy Kuhn
Wendy Kuhn is a holistic health coach, a HeartMath™ mentor and a solo-preneur. She happily shares her tips on building a business with like-minded people. She believes that through eating well, avoiding toxins, and taking steps to be happy, people can achieve great things. Wendy works with organizations looking to integrate health and wellness into the fabric of their culture through Break Through Consulting (www.breakthroughconsultingllc.com) Together with her husband, she runs the non-profit, Break Through Academy (www.b-t-academy.org), where they work with clients, using their i-ASK approach, to explore the idea that it is your life and your choice.
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