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6 Ways To Save Yourself From Drowning In E-mails

6 Ways To Save Yourself From Drowning In E-mails
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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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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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