Email Speed Dating: Tackling 50 emails in 50 minutes

Every second and fourth Friday of the month we hold the Inspiring Business at Inspire Cafe event. It’s a great way to wrap up a big week! Recently, I’d made a breakthrough in something that I now know a lot of people struggle with, so shared it as our “Win of the Week”.

One thing that has plagued me for quite a while was my inability to achieve what some call ‘Inbox Zero’.  Despite my best efforts, I had what I called ‘Inbox 120’. On average I ended each day with 120 unread emails!  The subconscious weight on my shoulders was overbearing and I realised something must be done.

Over a weekend, I was able to deal with the vast majority of these unread emails. Not only that, but I was able to apply what I learned with this exercise and now there’s no struggle to totally clear my Inbox each time I sit down to it. Until I shared this at the Inspiring Business breakfast, I didn’t realise it was such a common problem!

I’d love to share with you the ‘tricks’ I learned to kill 50 emails in 50 minutes.

Radio Silence: Allocate Uninterrupted Time

You can’t deal with your inbox piecemeal, with endless distractions. Block out time in your calendar ahead of time. Let your team know you’re going do-not-disturb-iphoneinto ‘radio silence’ and just get it done!  Also make sure you’re not going to be interrupted by technology. Two things that can achieve this:

1. Disconnect from WiFi so you won’t be distracted by Facebook, incoming emails, the urge to check the news etc. Some of you won’t be able to disconnect from WiFi especially if your email is hosted online, but do your best to get rid of procrastination-related distractions.

2. Activate your phone’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode.  If someone calls or texts during Do Not Disturb mode, the screen of the phone stays blank. Usually you have the ability to make exceptions to this by tagging ‘Favourites’ in the contact list for family or close friends so they can get through to you if there is something pressing.

The Shot Clock: Set a Countdown Timer

A countdown timer in your peripheral vision does wonders for keeping you on task and focussed.  There are a number of ways you could do this, like using an App or a website  such as e.ggtimer.com.  Whatever your method, make sure you can see it while you work.

e.ggtimer.com has only one function, which is a countdown timer in a web browser. Choose how long you wish to count down, simply add the time after the web address, for example:

- 50 minutes would be: http://e.ggtimer.com/50minutes

- 60 seconds would be: http://e.ggtimer.com/60 (if nothing is written after your number, the site assumes seconds).

Keep It Simple, Stupid: Reply Using Four Sentences

Another thing that I struggle with is not getting too bogged down into the pleasantries. When your clients are also good friends, it’s hard not to check in on how their newborn is, or where they’ve travelled and so on … but there is a better method for doing that – it’s called picking up the phone!

But getting back to email: My tip is to simply get straight to the core of the email.

A website that has been designed to aid in this problem is four.sentenc.es. This policy keeps your responses brief, fast, and efficient, allowing you to respond in one minute or less to every email. The web site offers a template for a signature you can add automatically to your emails explaining your brevity.

Hit the Ground Running: Set Yourself Up for the Week

After reading a LinkedIn article a few months ago about starting your week on a Sunday afternoon, I’ve implemented a couple of recommendations from the article, including clearing email and small tasks before the week starts.  This stuff works a treat for your Monday Mindset!

In Summary

There’s quite a bit to implement here, but it’s all low cost and fairly easy to do. In summary, your moves are:

- Plan out and allocate uninterrupted time;

- Set a countdown timer;

- Reply using four sentences or less;

- Clear emails (and other small tasks) before the week starts.