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6 Ways To Save Yourself From Drowning In E-mails

6 Ways To Save Yourself From Drowning In E-mails

It’s a new day. Without doubt this is going to be a positive and productive day. Then it hits you. You look at your phone and see the little flashing light. You have mail. And you know it’s going to be lots and lots and lots of mail. Suddenly your mood crashes and the brightness of the day seems irrelevant. Before you do anything, you are going to have to wade through your emails.

So how do you stop yourself from getting this sinking feeling every single day and how can you turn dealing with your email into a positive and productive experience?

When You Are Drowning In Email The First Thing To Do Is To Manage The Flow

There is no other way to deal with email, you are going to need a proper system in place to confront it.  A consistent, ruthlessly applied system. If you don’t have a system and stick to it then you are never going to successfully get on top of your email problem. Your system should have a simple goal. At the end of each day your inbox will be completely empty and everything essential has been dealt with. How you set up your email filtering system is entirely up to you, but let’s outline a generally successful structure for you right now.

Step one.

Create a folder. It can be called anything you want. In this folder you are going to store all the emails that need attention, but that do not need to be, or cannot be replied to, or dealt with, that day.

An alternative to creating a folder is to make use of colour highlighting options in your email system. However, it does not feel as satisfying to see lots of coloured emails as it feels to see your inbox with less emails in it.

Step two.

Create an archive folder. This is where you are going to move anything that you think will be useful to keep, but that does not require a reply.

Step three.

This is the filtering stage. Without stopping, go through your entire inbox. If you don’t need it, then delete it. Do this liberally. If you need to follow-up on it later, move it to the action folder. If it is useful but you don’t need to take any action, archive it.

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Step four.

Deal with your email. Now your inbox only contains things that need a response right now. Deal with these as quickly as possible, trying to spend less than one minute per email.

After taking these steps, all you will have left in your inbox are the emails that need to be dealt with before the end of the day. All you need to do then is to go back into your inbox halfway through the day, go through the process again and deal with those remaining emails before you stop for the day. Also you will need to go into your actions folder once per day and work through those emails as quickly as possible.

It’s certainly not a complex system. The important point here is to have a systematic approach to dealing with your emails that achieves two aims:

1. Deals with your entire inbox in one go, leaving you a clear view of exactly what needs to be done right now.

2. Gives you a positive feeling at the end of every single day by achieving an empty inbox.

Dealing with the emails that arrive in a ruthless, consistent fashion is great. But unless you slow the flow of email you will continue to feel like you are drowning. Just like the hideous torture of waterboarding, although you are never actually going to drown, the feeling that you might have can be emotionally detrimental.

So the next step is to take some simple actions that will stem the flow of email forever.

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1. Deal with subscriptions

Take the bold step of unsubscribing from every single mailing list you are currently on. Don’t stop and think that you may want to read something at some stage, just unsubscribe from the lot. I bet you won’t miss any of it.

And if you do, then simply create a separate webmail account and use that to subscribe to mailing lists. Then when you do get spare time you can go into that account and flick through it to your heart’s content.

By doing this, you will also avoid the temptation to get distracted by the latest great thing that someone is telling you!

2. Send shorter emails

You don’t want to appear rude, but you should deal with your emails in as few words as possible. So cut corners and get straight to the point. This will save you and the person reading time.

3. Send less emails

Do you really need to reply to this email? Take a look through all the replies you have sent in the past week. How many of those were actually just acknowledgement’s or confirmations? So don’t bother sending that sort of response again. In 90% of cases the person sending it doesn’t require or expect a response anyway.

4. Utilise your email footer

Most people don’t even bother to have anything at the bottom of their sent emails by default, other than perhaps a disclaimer policy.

First of all make sure you have a proper signature there. This will stop you from being one of those people who types something like “Regards, John” 50 times a week.

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Secondly, create an email policy and put it ther which leads me to the next point…

5. Have a proper email policy

By setting-up an email policy, you can guide people into sending you better emails, or not sending them at all. This policy should be a few lines and be aimed at reducing the number of emails you get.

For example, if you don’t deal with a certain aspect of your business, perhaps your personal assistant does, then it can be tedious to endlessly forward emails to them, or respond and do their job for them.

So initially put your email policy in the footer of your emails. Then set-up an autoresponder containing that policy. In the autoresponder state that if the email pertains to certain topics people should forward the email they have just sent onto the personal assistant. Say that due to the volume of emails you receive you cannot respond personally so if they need a response they need to take action and forward it. Then you can simply delete the emails as they come in.

6. Post a frequently asked questions page on your website

It should be obvious, if you are getting the same email questions time and time again. If you are, then it makes sense to take 20 minutes to create a webpage containing answers and then include that in the email policy you have placed in the footer and in the autoresponder.

You are going to profit wildly from stopping yourself from drowning in email by gaining the most precious commodity of all. If I gave you an extra hour every day you would be delighted. Think what you could do with an extra hour per day, seven hours each week. That is a lot of time to deal with things in your business that will make you money, rather than trying to stick your fingers in the dike to stop the email flood.

The way you filter your emails will be very personal to you. You could try starting with the system I have outlined here, and then adapt it depending on the volume and type of emails you receive. The key point is to commit yourself now to setting up a mental system to ruthlessly deal with your email at the start of every day.

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Once you have done this, you can decide how many times after that you want to go into your email account each day. I would suggest a second time only, just after lunch. Anything that arrives in the afternoon can be dealt with the next morning. There is no harm in scanning your inbox before you finish for the day just to make sure nothing crucial arrives late.

But as you may have already guessed, even more important than setting up a personal system is taking active steps now to stop future emails from arriving at all. A bit of time spent now removing emails from ever arriving and educating people on the type of emails you wish to receive, and telling them what to do in all the obvious cases, can transform your position and gain you valuable time each day.

There is no magic formula for dealing with email, but once you have a system and have set up your own gatekeeper, then giving yourself more time to make money can be a reality.

Or Perhaps There Is A Magic Formula….

One way you can cut out 90% of your email time is to hire a personal assistant (PA). These can be hired from outsourcing sites for a reasonable hourly rate. You can then train them by giving them access to your business email and then using a tool such as Skype to go through your email inbox every day for a week. After that, they can log into your email account every morning and only forward emails on to you that are absolutely vital for you to personally deal with.

So the only additional step you will need to take is to set up a different mailbox. If you receive personal emails, then it’s obviously advisable to steer them into your new email account rather than allowing your personal assistant to read them. Yes this will cost money, but a freelance personal assistant will potentially cost a fraction of the money you can make by freeing up several hours per day in some cases.

I thought I would throw this idea into the mix at the very end to give you food for thought. Dealing with your inbox does not have to be a job you personally do. As long as you are confident you are dealing with the emails you NEED to deal with, why do you have to go through them all by yourself?

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common leadership styles and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

        More About Leadership

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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