Throughout the day it's easy to spend a shocking amount of time stuck in email, and when you're a freelancer and you have to juggle work with getting back to clients and responding to new inquiries, it gets a whole lot more difficult to not get stuck in your email for hours a day.
The average worker spends more than 2 to 3 hours using their email, and as a freelancer the stats can sometimes be worse.
In reality, you're probably spending a whole lot longer in your email than you need to, so I'm going to show you 6 ways that you can cut back the amount of time you spend in your email, so that you have more time to focus on your work.
Most of these tips will also apply to Slack, as it has become just as much if not more of a distraction and time suck from day to day work, so keep your use of Slack in mind throughout this post.
If you spend a lot of time fretting over what the perfect response to an email is, you're going to be wasting a lot of time. Because of this it's better to automate similar responses with email templates.
For example, you might have a couple of different templated responses to new inquires. I have several different template emails for the different services that clients reach out to me for to save time.
You'll likely end up adjusting the template to better suit the inquiry, but you'll still save plenty of time by having a good outline to start from.
I also have a template to catch up that uses a Calendly link so people can find a time that works for them to catch up, rather than doing the back and forth to find a good time to meet.
You can write templates for any emails that you routinely send to save time, such as sending off invoices, asking for feedback, or following up on a lead.
There are a variety of different types of email that get sent to us throughout the day, but most are distractions, and none of them need an instant response.
By turning off all notifications for emails, you're ensuring that you don't get interrupted while you're trying to focus on other work. Even if you don't end up opening your emails, the cost of context-switching even from a distraction that only lasts a couple of seconds means you'll still be thinking about the email as you get back to your work.
There is no excuse for thinking that you need notifications turned on for emails. No one needs or expects instant responses, and if you have a client that does then it might be time to look for new clients.
Right now, turn off all notifications for your emails, and while you're at it you can also delete your email app on your phone, because it's just not worth the distraction.
With email notifications turned off, you have the power in your hands to decide when you should check in on your emails.
The average person checks their emails around 15 times a day, but they don't need to be checking it nearly as much, as often when you check your emails you might not even take action such as reply to one.
Because of this, it's much better to batch check your emails only a couple times a day. If you can survive off of checking it once a day, you should, but realistically it's more manageable to give yourself 2 - 3 times throughout your day that you can indulge in your emails.
Rather than deciding on a number of times you will check your email and hoping you will stick to it, it's better to schedule set check-in times on your calendar.
For example you might schedule email sessions throughout your day at 10am, at 1pm, and at 4pm. That way you know exactly when you're going to use your email, eliminating any decision making around when you should check up on emails.
Not all emails can be dealt with as soon as they arrive in your inbox. Some might be better suited for a specific day later in the week, or some might just be an entertainment digest such as a newsletter that you don't have time to read yet.
Rather than leaving an email if you're not ready to take action on it yet, you can snooze the email to a later time. I will snooze client emails if I can't reply to them until I get feedback from someone else, or even snooze emails from the morning to the afternoon so I can still get through all my emails in the morning but know that I work through the others later in the day.
I use the email application Spark to do this, but you should be able to find similar functionality depending on the program or website that you use for email.
By getting through all of your emails every time you go into your inbox, you know that you won't have any emails lingering in your mind that you eventually need to take action on.
To get through all your emails every day, you need to be constantly thinking about what actions you need to take for each email you receive. Some emails you'll be able to read and archive, some you'll need to reply to, and some tasks you'll need to take further action outside of your email.
If you have any emails that are tasks, you should write down the task you need to do to get it out of your inbox. That way you can still get through emails when they require more to be done.
I also use email snoozing heavily for this reason, so that I can decide on when I'm going to take later action for an email, and still get through all my emails every time I check them.
Sometimes you might know exactly how you want to reply to an email, but you're not ready to send it off just yet. Rather than write and send the email later, you can draft your email and schedule a later date or time when you want it to be sent.
For example, if you received an email on the weekend, you can reply straight away but schedule the email only to be sent on Monday, or if an email came through 10 or so minutes ago, you can reply to it and schedule it to be sent later in the day.
Client expectations are always important when it comes to maintaining the relationship, so if you reply to emails instantly, clients will come to expect instant responses from you. By delaying your emails you can set realistic expectations for your clients and remove some of the stress out of feeling the need for fast responses.
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