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How To Be Responsive and NOT Lose Your Mind

Did you know that being constantly in your inbox, reading and responding to email can feel productive, but is actually a form of distraction?

YEP! This was such a head-slap moment for me when I learned it years ago.

The constant need to be ultra-responsive pulls your focus away from the bigger picture of building a successful, sustainable business you can love for many years to come.

But, how do you make your clients feel cared for, but not spend the day in reactionary mode in your inbox?

First, it starts with expectations and boundaries.

This is the tough part – you need to tell your clients when they can expect to hear back from you. The good news is that it can be whatever you want it to be, 4 hours, 24 hours or 3 business days. It’s what works best for you that matters.

Think about how often you want to be reading and answering emails in the day and on what days.

Do you want to even check email on the weekend or at night? If you don’t, tell clients you’ll be unavailable Saturday and Sunday, but will get back to them on Monday. Or if an email comes through after 5pm, they will hear from you the following business day.

A few examples of how response expectations can help or hurt you:

One funnel expert I recently worked with has his email checking schedule right in his email signature, which notes that he checks his inbox once a day at 1:30pm ET. Anything received after that time will get a reply the following business day. While this strategy forced me to be mindful when communicating with him, it also felt professional. All I could think was, “wow, this guy takes his work seriously!”

On the flip side, an ads manager I recently worked with said that getting back to me by the next business day was not a problem, but then it was a 50-50 chance if she responded within that time window. When asked about it again, she said she would be responsive and then continued not to be. It was disappointing because she was doing a good job with the ads, but we couldn’t count on her to communicate with us. When you’re working in a virtual environment, communication is key.

Personally, I tell my clients I’ll get back to them within 1 business day. In the instances where a client has come to me with a last-minute request that was not an emergency, I’ve reminded them of the response policy and that I wasn’t able to get to the task on short notice. They’ve always been understanding and it helped to reinforce that I’m a business owner too. I’ve never lost a client because of this policy.

But, it doesn’t stop with clear communication of the expectation, now comes the {possibly} harder part – hold yourself to it and get out of your inbox.

You do that by implementing a simple email routine and check your email no more than 4 times per day, to build up the habit of not being in your inbox so much.

Here’s how the email routine can look in your business:

  1. 7:30am (start of day) – Scan of inbox and:
    • respond to any emails if it will take no more than 2 minutes
    • send a quick acknowledgment for emails that will take longer to fully address (more on that below)
    • move client task requests to a project management software (more on that below)
  2. 11:30am (or midday) – Scan inbox, but don’t respond to any emails unless it is truly urgent (ie. your version of urgent, not a client’s definition)
  3. 2:00pm (mid-afternoon) – Scan inbox and:
    • respond to any emails if it will take no more than 2 minutes
    • move client task requests to a project management software
  4. 5:00pm (end of day) – Scan inbox and:
    • respond to any emails if it will take no more than 2 minutes
    • send a quick acknowledgment for emails that will take longer to fully address
    • move client task requests to a project management software

For emails that’ll take longer than 2 minutes to fully address, either they need research or something set-up for the client, add the task to Asana and then work on it when you’re scheduled to do work for that client next.

If it is a task that will be done further down the road (either next day or next week, depending on timeline and request), send a quick acknowledgment and outline when they can expect to see the actual task worked on or completed.

I’d prefer you to not check your email more than 3 times per day, but I know how difficult it can be to break our default-mode of checking, responding, and more checking as emails come in.

Once you’ve got the 4 times per day habit down, move to 3 times per day by removing the third check-in from the above routine.

Pro tip – do not send or reply to emails outside of the above times to train both yourself and your clients, but if you must, then preschedule an email to go out later in the day by using Boomerang.

How much time could you save in your day if you used this routine to check your email? What else could you do with that extra time? Would you use it to grow your business or to recharge? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Photo by RawPixel on Unsplash

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