How Obsessively Checking My Email Has Improved My Life
I’m in my seventh year of making a living as a service provider and have always struggled with email. Until now. I check email constantly and deal with the email immediately. I act on it, delegate it, put it on a to-do list or delete it.
Why checking email once or twice a day doesn’t work
The experts say email should be processed only once or twice a day. For most of us, the amount of daily email we receive would require a couple of one-hour blocks per day to process it, and most of us don’t and can’t schedule our days around processing email. We schedule our days so that what we’re working on the most important thing at the moment. And what qualifies as important can change a few times each day. When we save email processing until we have a block of time, inevitably we wake up each morning to a backlog of emails. I hate starting my day that way, and it’s an easy way to miss things.
Email is more efficient than a phone call 1) because the information always gets to the other party, there is no phone tag, 2) when no response is needed 3) because it gives you a choice of of when to work on the required action and respond, and 4) because it gives you time to think of your response when dealing with conflicts.
Because email is more efficient than a phone call, I prefer to communicate this way. And if this is my preference, I need to reinforce people when they use my preferred method of communication. I need to respond to them quickly.
Some issues require a conversation, and this is when the telephone should be used. But use email to set up a phone appointment where you and the other person commit to being at your phones and available at a specific time and day. This way the issue gets solved with one phone call, everyone has the information in front of them needed to solve the issue, and you avoid phone tag.
How to get things done while you check email all day
When you can, turn off email and telephone for a few short blocks of time during the day, say 30 minutes to one hour. You can also use a block of time in the early mornings or late evenings to work on projects. And there’s always the weekend. I would much rather use a 3-4 hour block of time on the weekend to work on a project than to clear out my email inbox.
Don’t use your email inbox as a to-do list. It’s a very inefficient way to organize tasks. And if you’re like me, an email in your inbox that hasn’t been completely dealt with causes stress. Emails that have not been completely processed make me feel like I have more work to do than there actually is. The goal is to clear out your email inbox two or three times per day. The way to accomplish this is to do the following with every email you read:
Answer or act on it
Put it on a to-do list
Response time is one of the best ways to maintain clients and obtain clients
I used to consider email an interruption to doing real work. I now understand one of the core services I provide is to respond to clients’ requests for information. Even if I cannot deliver the requested information immediately, I still respond and let them know when I’ll be providing it.
Answering emails during the day is important work. Many clients have told me they love my response time to their emails and phone calls. Also, other bookeepers and accountants have lost clients to me because of response time. Responding to clients in a timely manner is one the best ways to let them know how important they are and how much you appreciate their business. Slow or no response unfortunately sends a message that you don’t want or need their business.
We often prefer people communicate with us via email because it cuts down on phone calls. But then we adopt an attitude that email is troublesome and a “necessary evil” of doing business. I encourage you to revisit the power of email and embrace it. Use it to get things done and show your clients how much you appreciate them. You will wake up each morning with a sense of control and accomplishment.