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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 14 Ways to Conquer Your Company’s Overflowing Inbox

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 14 Ways to Conquer Your Company’s Overflowing Inbox


    Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of those involved in the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

    Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

    What’s your number-one tip for keeping email communication manageable in your business?

    1. Keep Customers Separate

      Aggregate all of your customer-related requests into one software system such as ZenDesk or FuseDesk. Keeping all of this information in one place allows the owner to get a bird’s eye view of all requests and answers, as well as keeping a large category of emails out of individual inboxes.

      Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

      2. Just Pick Up the Phone!

      Matt Mickiewicz

        When email conversions and discussions between team members start flying back and forth on the same topic, usually the best thing to do is to switch the medium to phone. It’s infinitely faster than having a lengthy debate over email, which can often evolve into a thread of 20, 30 or 40 messages.

        Matt Mickiewicz, 99designs

        3. Allowing Instant Messages

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          No more lengthy emails that never get to the point. Instead, my team makes sure we’re always available via IM so we can have conversations about what’s on our mind and get instant feedback. We’ve found this to be more efficient than letting emails sit in our inbox for hours or days — or get lost forever.

          Danny Wong, Blank Label Group, Inc.

          4. Let Someone In

          Louis Lautman

            You need to figure out what emails that YOU must respond to, versus emails that must be responded to. Who can you delegate other emails to? Create a new email address or have them login to your email to answer some. Also, do these emails even need to come in, or can you create an FAQ on your site?

            Louis Lautman, Young Entrepreneur Society

            5. Spontaneous Video Chats

              Instead of allowing threads of never-ending emails, encourage the use of Skype to chat and call team members whenever needed. Email can get out of hand sometimes so it’s important to resort to direct communication to get things done.

              Ben Lang, EpicLaunch

              6. Now, Not Later

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                I have found that when I let my emails pile up, not only does it take me more time to go through them later on, but it also psychologically creates a mental block when I see more than I can handle at one time. And instead of working through them, I just continue to leave them unread and unopened. I highly recommend keeping on top of them at all times, responding and marking down what I need to do.

                Steven Le Vine, grapevine pr

                7. Start Batching

                Lawrence Watkins

                  I learned this trick while reading “The 4-Hour Workweek” a few years ago. Try to only answer emails two to three times per day– for me, it’s 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. This makes me more productive in other parts of the day because I am not being constantly interrupted by incoming messages.

                  Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

                  8. Scrape the Important Stuff

                    Move your actionable items and important data off of email and in it’s own place. Utilize a business class email that will allow you to easily add contacts, create reminders, set appointments, and store documents while also being able to easily share those items with the rest of your team.

                    Jennifer Donogh, Young Female Entrepreneurs

                    9. Labels, Filters, Stars

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                    Arjun Arora

                      If you’re using Gmail, make the most of the various organizational tools at your disposal to help tame your inbox. Filters automatically routes emails and sorts your inbox before you even open it. Labels are a good for grouping together similar messages and making them easy to find later. Stars help make your inbox actionable by highlighting urgent messages and setting priorities.

                      Arjun Arora, ReTargeter

                      10. Throw the Boomerang

                      Michael Margolis

                        Stop using your inbox as a ToDo list and a WaitingOn list. The awesome Gmail plugin called Boomerang allows you to send emails, with reminders for that email to boomerang back after a set period if it goes unanswered. A priceless productivity tool for letting go.

                        Michael Margolis, Get Storied

                        11. Keep Clients at the ‘Camp’

                          We route all client emails via Basecamp, which allows the right person on the team to reply and run with it. It also keeps everything organized per project, so we don’t have to scratch our head wondering where that piece of communication was.

                          Nathalie Lussier, Nathalie Lussier Media

                          12. Minimize the Overload

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                          Derek Shanahan

                            We’re not fans of having long email chains, especially internally — we use intranets, chat rooms (with recorded history) and deliberately short face-to-face meetings to circumvent long email exchanges. But there’s only so much you can do to minimize email with outside parties, so we use customer service forums to avoid repetitive email inquiries.

                            Derek Shanahan, Foodtree

                            13. Don’t Forget to FollowUp.cc

                            Garrett Neiman

                              Without question, Followup.cc is the best way to take control of your inbox. With Followup.cc, you can send messages away to return at a pre-specified time. This has enabled me to send myself reminders, and also remind myself to ping people after an appropriate window of time. Most significantly, it takes all not-so-urgent email out of my inbox so I can focus on what’s most important.

                              Garrett Neiman, CollegeSpring

                              14. Break the Chain!

                              Devesh Dwivedi

                                Email is part of your business culture! Encourage picking up the phone, talking in person, texting and IM-ing. By spending less time writing and sending emails, you will help other people to spend less time reading them, and if everyone uses emails that wisely in your organization, you’ll have less emails and more real communication.

                                Devesh Dwivedi, Breaking The 9 To 5 Jail

                                (Featured photo credit: Overflowing Inbox via Shutterstock)

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                                Published on September 18, 2018

                                17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

                                17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

                                Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer?

                                Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place.

                                Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated.

                                After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you?

                                Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team:

                                1. Show your appreciation

                                In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets — their employees.

                                The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due.

                                Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way.

                                2. Communicate effectively

                                Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately.

                                Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills.

                                3. Be open to dialogue

                                Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work.

                                New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie.

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                                In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts.

                                For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader.

                                4. Provide constructive criticism

                                Giving negative feedback is always tricky — you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly.

                                So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results.

                                Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does.

                                Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve.

                                Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions.

                                5. Conduct one-on-ones

                                Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level?

                                While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them.

                                Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks.

                                More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal.

                                6. Build training programs

                                In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance.

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                                From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going.

                                While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings.

                                7. Offer growth opportunities

                                Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated.

                                Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder.

                                Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills.

                                8. Reward them

                                Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them.

                                If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home.

                                Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals.

                                9. Encourage team outings

                                Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results.

                                From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too!

                                10. Involve them

                                Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause.

                                Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously.

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                                11. Set meaningful goals

                                In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street.

                                Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

                                12. Empower them

                                You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking.

                                Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn.

                                Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way.

                                13. Deal with conflict

                                A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity.

                                How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations.

                                As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team.

                                14. Implement a flexible work culture

                                Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay.

                                Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction.

                                It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated.

                                15. Host engaging activities

                                All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities?

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                                From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work.

                                16. Maintain a positive work space

                                Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space.

                                Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations.

                                These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to.

                                17. Avoid discrimination

                                Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance.

                                In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination.

                                The bottom line

                                Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be.

                                It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels.

                                This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

                                Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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