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Getting to Inbox Zero
Diving into today's episode, I know for some of you ‘Inbox Zero’ may feel like a pipe dream but I am here to tell you it's not. If I can do it then believe me so can you.
How many email accounts you have? I have 4 different Gmail accounts. A few weeks ago I decided now was the time I needed to hit Inbox zero. In all of them! Because it was giving me anxiety, it just felt really clogged.
I don't know how you feel about that kind of ‘whoo-whoo’ stuff? I really am somebody who subscribes to that feeling that when the sides are clear, when the house is clear, when my inbox is clear I feel more clear. It really really does help me. So I'm hoping that it will help you gain a little bit of control in your life too. Even if it's only in a small part of your inbox world.
The first thing I want to do is tell you what I used to do with my emails. I'd go into my email inbox and I would start clicking. I'm sure most of you have got a Gmail account but if you haven't, they have little boxes on the side of each email and you can multi-select, then bulk actions those emails.
I would go down the emails and I would see the ones that I wasn't interested in.
‘Oh look there's another one from booking.com, there's another one from all of these random newsletters that I’ve signed up for over the years’
And I would just click, click, click, click, click, then press, read or delete. A lot of them I would delete. If they were ones that I thought that I might be interested in looking at, at some point I would mark them as read so they wouldn’t show in the ‘Red Dot of Doom.’(the notification circle on my phone)
Then the ones that I really wanted to go in and have a look at I would leave them unread. My Gmail is sat in my little taskbar on my phone and that Red Dot of Doom would regularly hit 100.
I'd start getting panicky at that and I wanted to get that number down to as close to zero as possible, but this didn't mean that my inbox was at zero. It just meant that I didn't have any unread emails in my inbox. I would usually hover at around thirty emails that I needed to go in and actually read.
What would happen though, is that instead of going in and actually reading these, they would stay in there. The next day I would go in and I’d do the same thing again the next day and the next day etc.
About a week later the messages that I had left in there the previous week. The ones that I really wanted to read would be a week old and the author would have sent me a new one. The one from the week before was not so relevant so I'd mark it as read.
I was never actually reading my emails, never actioned anything, never filed anything. I was just ‘reading’ them by bulk activating the read-option on my Gmail.
What I did in my Inbox
Now obviously that is not the way to control your inbox. So what did I do? The first thing I did was I looked at the last two-three weeks in my inboxes and I unsubscribed from any email that I no longer wanted to be part of.
Any newsletter that I was no longer interested in I just took myself off of their list. Nice and easy to do, everyone can do that one.
The second thing was that I set up some labels. If you're in Gmail their labels if you're in Outlook or something similar they will be folders. I created labels for the important emails I get. So for the newsletters that I actually want to pay attention to, course emails, emails I get, from my bank, from my insurances, anything like that I created a folder for.
Over the last couple of weeks, I put the emails that I had left after all the unsubscribing into the folders I created. Now, everything in my inbox was over 3 weeks old.
Next, I did the best thing you could do, I just selected every single email in my inbox and pressed delete.
Just Do It
Yeah, I know. You might be sitting there thinking oh my goodness Donna, how could you have done that, you might have deleted something important?
However, I feel like it's almost similar to when you move house and you’ve unpacked all of your boxes but there's a box that you haven't touched for 6-months that is still taped up. People will say ‘Well if you haven't opened it for 6-months you don't need it, just throw that box away.’
Same with your clothes when you turn all the hangers around and anything that you haven't turned back because you haven’t worn it in 6-months, just throw it away.
Now, I haven't been able to do it with those things, but with the inbox, I was sitting there like ‘You know what if it is something important it’ll come back to me.’ So, I just deleted the lot, and I felt much better for it.
I know, you might not be able to do that. You may feel a little bit scared, but remember you can go in and you can filter things. If you're worried about losing an important document that might be in there, search for those names and bring up all of the emails that they have sent you.
Then you can just bulk select those and put them into their folder so they're not in your main inbox anymore. Anything important in there it's going to be safe in your labels/folders.
Another thing that I did which I found really really useful was I created a new email account which is one of my four. This email is my name and ‘optins’. Yes, you can send me an email there if you like and I will see it.
However, that email is specifically for when I want to sign up to a freebie or a newsletter. If somebody is offering a free download and I want that download but I don't know if I want to start receiving emails from them I will use the optins email.
Then if I don’t get round to reading it, it's not a big deal. What I can then do is see who I actually listen to. Who I think is a good person to have in my inbox, I will keep those and unsubscribe from others.
It means that you don't have to give out your personal email address to anyone or anything that isn’t important. The optins email would be great for when you go shopping and they ask you if you'd like to receive your receipt by email. You can just give them the optins one. Then when they start sending you newsletters and spam that you haven't asked for, you can just hit unsubscribe.
Now technically with GDPR things like that shouldn't be happening but we all know it still does so that is an awesome way to get around junk in your main email.
Inbox First Impressions
So, now that we have got a nice clean inbox, I want to talk to you about email with your clients. I am a subscriber to MailChimp and I send out a lot of my emails to my clients through them.
There are other email service providers and if you're not set up with one of them I would urge you to do that now. It can save you a huge amount of time and can actually save you, clients, let me tell you how.
One of the things I found as a planner and wedding photographer was that my couples would come to me and would tell me how rubbish other vendors were at replying to emails. The lack of communication can really be the difference between you getting the job or somebody else.
It doesn't take much to set up an autoresponder on MailChimp. What I would suggest is that you have it set up so that when your clients come through your website you automatically send an email to go to them to give them some direction.
For example, if you're not great at replying to emails straight away have an auto email that set up. Something like ‘thank you for contacting me, I aim to respond to emails within 48 hours and here is some information for you on my services. If you've got any questions just send a reply and I will answer those when I respond to your email, I look forward to speaking to you.’
You don't have to pretend that the automated email is you, you can make it obvious that it is an auto-response and you don't have to be disingenuous but set some parameters so that they understand.
If they send you an email and a week later they haven't heard from you they are going to have heard from somebody else.
It doesn't matter how great your website is or how great your testimonials are. If you are not getting back to your clients in good time they are going to hire someone else.
This is really really important, set up that autoresponder, tell them how quickly you aim to reply to emails. Obviously, as wedding vendors we tend to work Fridays and Saturdays. Explain to them that if they email you at the weekend they’ll likely not get a response until Monday. Just set that out so they know when they're likely to hear from you. Then make sure you reply.
You can give them your price list or your brochure, something to be getting on with. Make sure that you reply to them quickly and get back to them with answers to what they're asking because if you want the work, you've got to engage.
If you don't engage you're just gonna lose that client somebody else.
Block time in your inbox
The best way to do this and make sure you’re responding in time is to set up some time blocking in your day. Have it so that you give yourself either 30 minutes at the end of the day. Perhaps even 15 minutes before you're going to go on your lunch and 15 minutes at the end of the day.
Something like that just gives you a window of ‘this is when I need to get it done’ and it doesn't matter what you're doing at that moment you stop and check your email.
As I've said, inbox zero has really had a profound effect on my mental wellness. It is such a release knowing that there is nothing there that needs my attention, there's nothing there that I'm missing out on, there is nothing there that I should be responding to.
Setting your emails up for success with inbox zero and an autoresponder for those first interactions will not only help you stay organized but could also increase your sales. Sign up to MailChimp it's free or another one of those email service providers if you prefer. You can set up an autoresponder on that free level with MailChimp.