Mar 19

Take back your time (and life) by taking control of your inbox!

A recent video blog by our mentor Natalie MacNeil really got me thinking about how I could start being more selfish with my time. Now that I am paying a bit of attention to this particular behaviour, the universe keeps putting what I need to hear right in front of me.

Enter "The Seven Day Weekend" by Maverick CEO and author Ricardo Semlar. This book found me via my dear friends Zoe and Bill, whilst on a fabulous holiday in the Malborough Sounds of NZ. Fitting really, because Semlar's book is all about creating a work life that empowers you to do more of the things you love. 

Semlar's radical approach to business is all about breaking habits and questioning norms.

It's an inspiring and challenging read, and today I took immediate action on something I read in the book, applying the three 'why's' exercise Semlar advocates to my constant battle with my inbox.  Here's how it goes….


WHY does it take me so long to respond to emails and clear my inbox?
Because I am prone to writing overly long-winded emails and I am subscribed to every list this side of the greenwich meridian

WHY do I write overly long-winded emails and subscribe to so many lists?
The former: because I am trying to build good relationships with people, which leads to more partnerships and clients. The latter: because I am shit-scared of missing out on something important!

WHY do I think longer emails lead to more business and more clients?
Because if I put more time and thought into it, people will like me more and be more likely to want to work with me!

BINGO. Perhaps my email ramblings are less about great relationship building, and more about my own need to be liked. And perhaps a lack of confidence in what I have to offer. I fear this may have a kernel of truth to it.

WHY am I so worried about missing out on something if I don't subscribe?
Because of FEAR. Yes, it's difficult to admit, but secretly I think I am afraid that if I unsubscribe from all those lists, webinars, and notifications I may miss the one big thing, the big secret, that will answer all my prayers and solve all my problems for me.

Hmmm, interesting what comes up when we dig a little deeper isn't it. And I must say, it's a little confronting to be admitting to these types of fears.

But to hell with it. Jo and I are committed to practicing what we preach, and being honest about our fears is one of them. So here are my two radical propositions for blasting through those fears and overcoming my inbox and time conundrum.

#1 Shorten my email responses drastically.

I can still build great relationships with shorter emails. This is not about being rude or never giving anyone quality responses. It is quite the reverse, in fact. It is about respecting my time limits,and those of others, by keeping my emails brief and to the point. Of course, the occasional rant, life story or piece of sage advice may still slip through, but in the main I intend to be ruthless (well, in a friendly kind of way). After all:

  • Everyone gets fed up with their inbox, so people will understand if I sharpen things up a little.
  • I will not only benefit myself by doing this, but also the people on the receiving end who will also find themselves with more time.

Here is the evidence of my radical proposition (via my new email signature)

The funny thing is, instead of dreading checking my emails this week,  I can't wait to sink my teeth into them!

#2 Slash my subscriptions to newsletters, webinars, free gifts and whatever new shiny thing is coming across my screen as I surf the web.

If a webinar, subscription or free gift isn't getting Jo and I closer to achieving our two major milestones for the year, it is OUT!

  •  I will be unsubscribing to most of the newsletters I currently subscribe too. They clog up my inbox and I hardly EVER get to reading them. I will select a small number that I really value and set up RSS feeds, so that I can still check in with them regularly via GOOGLE reader.
  • I will only sign-up for free webinars and content that directly relate to one of our key milestones. No matter how tempted I am! There are oceans of webinars and pdf files waiting for me in my email folders and it's got to stop. It's time to reign in my learning addiction.

Could you improve the quality of your life by questioning the way you manage your inbox?

Perhaps you've already got this one dialled, but if not, it may be time to question your assumptions about the value of emailing. Could you be spending more quality time with family and friends if you bit the bullet and got your inbox under control?

Delay no longer, take your life back!

We'd love to hear your tips for clearing your inbox and saving time on email. Please share them in the comments box below.

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  • I think I was definitely meant to read this Janine! Over the last few days I have unsubscribed from at least 15 newsletters/lists. Which feels a bit funny as I want more people to subscribe to mine. I hope there is not some karma out there that I get 15 unsubscribes!

    I, too, am scared of missing out on the one big secret but was feeling absolutely overwhelmed when looking at my inbox. I think we have about 2000 (that is not a typo) emails in our inbox at home!

    I love the idea of the 7 day weekend. At the risk of chasing ‘the answer to my prayers” I might have a look.

    Thank you so much for sharing this Janine. It does feel good to have less emails coming in

  • Debbie O’Connor

    My tip is that I always go through my inbox from the bottom up to ensure I always get to the oldest emails first and am not always answering the ones that just come in. Cheers!

  • Debbie O’Connor

    p.s. this is Alli from Motivating Mum here! For some reason my sign in signed in as my UK Master Franchisee!

  • I think part of the trouble is that it’s all well and good closing down email so as not to be distracted but with contacts and tasks held in the same place (in Outlook or Gmail) email needs to be open for access to them, which becomes a distraction!

    I have rules set up to forward things like emails from Twitter into a separate folder so that I can go through them in a batch. It also helps to reduce the size of your inbox straight away!

    I also have a folder/label system for customers, prospects and ‘to action’ to clear my inbox and then I put anything urgent into the prospect folder too, and then if I don’t get to the action folder it’s not a problem – I haven’t missed anything…and I find that by the time I do get to the action folder much of it is out of date or no longer relevant. So, it’s a good way to reduce the shiny object syndrome, forcibly!

    Still working towards a two day weekend at this end, never mind a seven day one 😉

  • Janine Ogg

    Thanks for the replies @JoDodds

  • Janine Ogg

    Thanks for the great replies Jo, Allie and Claire,

    I’m happy to report that I am making great progress on the inbox, though even with all the slashing and burning I am doing, it’s still a bit disturbing how quickly it piles up again.

    I love the idea of tackling my inbox from the bottom up, I’m definitely going to give that one a go!

    Claire: I hear you on the bad ‘unsubscribe’ karma. I do still subscribe to some newsletters, but I do feel ok about letting the others go because I have not been giving them the attention they deserve and its better that my subscription ‘space’ is filled up by someone who really needs it.

    This theory works well if you subscribe to the notion that a smaller list packed with highly motivated and engaged people is more desirable than a HUGE list with lots of random hanger on er’s who never actually pay any attention!

    Jo: Yes on the struggle to even get your two days, but do some of your work days ‘feel’ like weekends because you are doing what you love? That is the question and the angle Semlar comes from in his book. Its a challenging read that’s for sure.

  • Super read… well worth ignoring the rest of my inbox tonight – thank you ‘Love Your Small Business’ ladies! Do not be surprised if I borrow your insightful idea to add an explanatory signature to support the brief length of my future emails as this is notion is simply brilliant! After many restless nights (filled with ideas instead of zzzs) wishing that more hours would magically appear in the following day, I am now beginning to accept that refining systems and delegating (or letting go of the Inner Control Freak – Fabienne Fredrickson) is the key to unlocking extra time to devote to doing what it is only I can do. Keep up the profound insights 🙂

    • Janine Ogg

      Hi Stacey,

      J9 here. Geat to read your post and to see members of the All About Action crew making appearances on our blog. You are most welcome to borrow this idea of course, I will expecting brief (yet witty?) emails from you in the future. Love your insights about letting go and getting help, and we have even got to that part of the course yet! See you on the forum.

  • Before I left on my trip to Africa I unsubscribed to just about everything and I didn’t miss a thing. It means now when I only get to check in every 8 days I have 200 emails waiting for me not 1600! I can choose to resubscribe later if I miss the value they provide.

    • So true, we can always re-subscribe! 1600 emails, what a nightmare…

  • Bonnie

    So glad I took the time to read this … you have me pegged on the “fears.” Now that they are out there I too pledge to shorten my emails and unsubscribe to even more newsletters this week.

    • Hey Bonnie,

      Apologies for the tardy reply, I missed your comment somehow. It’s so great that you resonated with these fears…when you write blog posts like these and share your own fears, there is always a peg of doubt there but as always, I think it was worth it to be open and honest!

      How did the unsubscribing go?

  • excellent tips, Janine!
    Too often I spend way too much time in my inbox and as you put it, have started questioning whether it is moving me closer towards my goals.
    Tim Ferriss, in 4HWW has good advice as well about setting specific times of the day when you check and respond to emails instead of always trying to address everything as they come.

    • Hi Sandy, thanks for reply and for the tips. I hear you on picking times of the day to respond, though I haven’t got this dialled yet. I’m happy to report my inbox is much more manageable since I wrote this post and took action, but I do choose the times I respond to emails with very little thought/intention.

      Perhaps now is the time to address this idea. When do you do yours?

  • Kris Emery

    At the beginning of the year I unsubscribed to years of irrelevant old sign-up stuff that I hadn’t bothered removing my email from before. It’s a great decluttering exercise. I had bought a CD (yes, CD, remember those?) online once from a music store and they were still emailing me 15 years later with their news and updates.

    Today, when I come to my emails every morning, instead of deleting 90% of the rubbishy mail-outs, it’s much more focused and reflective of who I am now. I receive lots of personal development and business tips by email, but they’re things I’m likely to need and read.

    Take your life back is right!

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