How to Manage Your Bursting Email Inbox
As your blog becomes more popular, your email inbox becomes more full. This is a good thing, of course. After months, even years, of hard work it feels great to matter. It feels great to get thank yous, offers, opportunities, and questions. Soon enough, however, you'll be checking your email with dread.
It can be an enormous time-suck. It used to take me an hour a day just to get through it all. That is, until I can up with a system to deal with it. What follows is my own personal six-point method to cut my email time by 90%.
1. Delete all orders.
It's smart to have each product order sent to your inbox because it gives you an idea of how well your current article is converting. I don't count the orders and I don't pay a great amount of attention to how many I'm getting every day. (This is something I look at closely at the end of every month.)
But just knowing the general ebb and flow of money depending on the time of year is knowledge you'll use when deciding the kind of article you want to write and when. It's nuanced, to be sure, but helpful to have an idea of how well your business is doing. However - and this is a big however - you don't need to open these emails. Just take a mental note, then delete them all.
2. Delete all guest post and SEO offers.
I get a ton of people asking if they can write an article for Smart Classroom Management. I don't respond and delete these without opening. I don't feel bad because just a small amount of research will reveal that I'm the sole writer of SCM and thus don't accept guest posts.
SEO email offers are also very popular. Typically, they'll claim to have run a special program on your site that found weaknesses in your SEO and would like to have a chat about it. I delete these without opening. They're usually not hard to recognize by the subject line. Most companies, however, will send the same email over and over again. And they all look very similar.
With Scott on the Renegade Blogger team willing to give all his best advice I don't have to worry about SEO - and neither do you.
3. Delete all rude emails.
Most emails are from people who want something. I don't mind hearing them out as long as they're polite. If they don't address me by name and say thank you or something kind up front in appreciation of my time, then I delete it.
I know it sounds harsh, but there are many people who want to just take and take without offering anything in return - not even a thank you. So if they dive right in with a long question and the expectation that I'll do the same, then in the trash it goes. I don't even read it.
4. Respond to all thank yous.
If anyone takes the time to say thank you or write about how my website has helped them, then I always take the time to respond personally. To me, this is your only true obligation when it comes to email. But it's an important one.
It's important on the reader connection level, but also important for your reputation. I started blogging because I wanted to help people. So when they acknowledge my work, I'm eager to respond. I never, ever want to become too big or self-important not to write back something kind and unique to them. And I always use their name.
5. Respond to serious offers.
If a business makes a serious offer to pay you for your services, then always respond. If your answer is no, then give an honest reason why. I think as a professional you owe at least that much. It may be no now, but it could be a yes in the future.
I also listen to and respond to all offers that help promote my blog. This is usually in the form of a podcast or radio interview, which are a lot of fun to do and usually don't take any extra work. Even if it's a new or small podcast, I say yes. It's good practice in capsulizing your message for a large audience.
6. Discourage questions.
At one point several years ago, I was getting so many emails that it was affecting my writing time and stressing me out. So I made a change to my contact page and literally overnight it fixed the problem. Here's what it says:
I'm glad you're interested in contacting me. I love hearing from readers.Unfortunately, the website has grown to the degree that I'm unable to respond to questions or provide advice via email.
So, if you don't mind, please read through the archive (bottom right sidebar). With over 600 articles about every classroom management topic imaginable, you're sure to find your answer there.
You may also want to try the search function in the top right-hand corner of the menu bar or consider personal coaching.
If you can't find what you're looking for, please email me to suggest a future article.
If you have an offer or opportunity that I may be interested in, I'll only respond to those that are a good match for my schedule and interests.
It's been a godsend. I'm a little uncomfortable with that last line, but it very effectively weeds out all but serious offers. Some readers still ask questions, but I no longer feel bad if I don't have time to respond.
I now spend no more than five minutes a day handling email.
One of the keys to successful blogging is focus. It's focus on those few things that make the greatest difference at the cost of all the other stuff that in the end doesn't add up to much of anything.
Email is a perfect example. It's just not that important and definitely not worth spending a lot of time on. Your system may look different than mine depending on your niche. And that's okay. Hopefully you can use mine as a loose template.
The big lesson, though, is to have a system in place. I recommend sooner rather than later so the time-suck doesn't sneak up on you as it did me.
Until next week . . .