A few years ago I was asked to speak on a panel of female entrepreneurs to discuss our journey into the world of business ownership. At the same time, I had committed to what I called “The Year of No.”
As you guessed, the Year of No was about saying no to all of the ridiculous things that I had being saying yes to. Things that were sucking my time and attention or generally just made me grumpy: coffee dates, pick your brain dates, actual dates, no fun friends, networking events, listening to voicemails, and yes, EMAIL.
When I said, “I don’t answer all of my emails.” while speaking on this panel, the collective gasp in the room was audible. Afterward, the amount of women wanting to talk to me about not answering my email was kind of shocking. “Oh, there is no way I could do that.” “That’s just rude.” “I would LOVE to do that.” “How can I do that?” “You’re nuts, doesn’t your business suffer?”
The Year of No was a decision to stop doing things I didn’t want to do - and that was my only rule. Do I want to do that? No? Awesome. Strike it from the to-do list. If I didn’t want to do it, but knew I’d be grateful later that I did - then yes, I did it. Things like working out, eating spinach, going grocery shopping… you get the picture. Things I didn’t want to do? Answer unsolicited emails for 3-4 hours a day.
If you have your own business, can you relate? Getting inundated with pitches, sales emails, and the like was overwhelming me and I hated it. Email can be a one way communication and I realized I’m not obligated to engage in unsolicited communication! Look at it this way: If you were at dinner with your favorite person in the world and someone you don’t know just walked up, pulled up a chair, sat down and started talking, would you stop everything and give your time and attention to this stranger? Heck no! Would you feel great about your dinner if you spent it answering the questions or entertaining a perfect stranger for hours instead of your favorite person in the world? You would feel terrible and so would they.
It’s the same thing with your business. Your business and your customers/tribe/subscribers are one of your favorite people in the world, and if you are spending a huge part of your day answering emails that are not serving your favorite people or moving your business forward - they are not a priority.
EMAIL IS NOT YOUR PRIORITY.
Email has taken over our lives and it’s not something we have to be slaves to. I get around 200 emails per day, and I’m sure you do too. Maybe 10 of them I respond to. The other 190, sorry, deleted. These are unsolicited time wasters and definitely not good for business.
I’m not talking about customer service emails, those emails 100% serve your business, and come from your favorite people in the world. They do deserve time and attention, but not necessarily from you. Set up a wiki, FAQs, better customer on-boarding and hire a dedicated person or team to help you take care of your customers.
Companies are realizing how unproductive email really is and have moved to a completely no-email system or severely reduced email. They’ve set up effective systems to take care of customer inquiries and use other communications tools like Slack within their office. Companies like Jet and Lush have dramatically cut email usage internally.
So free yourself from the notion that every piece of communication that flies your way is your responsibility. It’s not. Your responsibility is to serve your customers and employees with the time and attention they need to be as successful as possible - and you can’t do that if you are answering emails for hours each day.