Are You Trapped by Email?
Handling an unending rush and gush of emails all day long is the king of all intruders for today’s knowledge working professional. Speed has become a dangerous love affair with modern day life. As heat is gradually increased to a boil, professionals have acclimated like a frog in boiling water by not noticing the changes and consequences. In the same way, speed has become a new normal despite the negative consequences it has on our health and relationships.
Today’s job description is an “email slave” who is out of control. I’ve audited over 650 professionals and one hour of their day is proactive while the other remaining six or seven are reactive. How would anyone even consider tackling a new goal in an atmosphere like this? Getting to a goal would be like pissing in the wind. So, let me solve the email caper and get right to the point. To improve your performance, you can learn more at www.highlevelperformance.com.
There are three reasons for this email bondage. Each of these have nothing to do with the external. In fact, the amount of email isn’t the big problem; that’s secondary. The source of the problem exists within the thinking and behavior of the person; that means YOU!
Before going further, let me say two key points that VIP coaching clients come by:
1) Overwhelm is caused by too many things having equal meaning (suggesting simplicity stems from a hierarchy of importance)
2) Being overwhelmed is the same as doing nothing; just twice as unpleasant.
A professional’s brand identity is typically built on a big assumption early in her career: “Access equals success.” Excellence is defined by speed and response time. What fascinated me about this is that the assumption that buyers and clients want this simply isn’t true. They want quality, not speed. If I’m a great restaurant customer, I want my food to taste great. Speed would be nice, but I want a great meal. I forgive speed for that. In fact, I expect it. What fascinated me even more is how availability actually lowered the professional person’s brand appeal when responding fast. The more important, desired, and sought after a person is; the less available they become. So accessibility and speed actually lessens respect for a professional’s positioning in terms of authority and power, hence demand.
Professionals who are accessible and returning emails on demand don’t trust their teams’ ability. They answer the emails as a control mechanism by getting to it before their team can fail. The big assumption is that the team will fail, and the fix is to handle preemptively what they aren’t ready for. But after taking a closer look at the teams involved, the professionals rarely prioritize the time to equip and ready their team, let alone share their to-do list to attract the best assistance to offload items.
There is one reason why their team isn’t ready: the professional doesn’t stick to his/her schedule. They don’t block time separately for leisure, preparation, and back-office structuring, as well as money making activity. When everything is jumbled together, it neutralizes and outlaws the necessary coaching and delegation commensurate with bringing to team into being fit. And it makes the professional harder to follow and please with quality support. Each time the leader comes around, the team cringes, because it’s always something new that’s going to bomb what’s already in motion gaining momentum. When the team disengages, the leader overloads their schedules with re-work leading to exhaustion, unintended consequences, and costly mistakes. What ensues is a vicious cycle of growing mistrust and tentativeness, which leads to handling unimportant emails during periods where impact work is more important, and the team continues to stagnate at a par level of play at best.
Nothing disqualifies you from choosing to make what matters to you the center of gravity from which all your decisions, actions, and communications will obey.
Even more than mistrust of the team the real underlying source is mistrust of self. When a professional negates sticking to his/her schedule, he can’t count on himself for much. This increases the danger of delaying a task like email and processing on offense when it’s time blocked. So the inclination is to jump and just do it re-actively out of worry or anxiety. The big assumption is “I can’t trust myself. I don’t have a system to put it in or time blocked for email processing,” So everything is screaming loudly for attention like a barking dog. It’s important for the professional to touch email, but not every email has the same meaning or impact. A VIP list should dictate who gets immediate attention and who doesn’t. And email decision trees and flows should be rehearsed and indoctrinated during periods of deliberate practice. This period we call “maintenance time,” where the entrepreneur goes backstage (admin, operations, fulfillment, servicing) to build confidence on days where she’s front-stage (marketing and selling).
Professionals assume that they’ll lose business if they’re snobby and stick to an ideal client criteria, but it’s not true. Not weeding the garden, and letting misfit customers through the red velvet rope to their club drives their staff crazy, first of all, and lowers morale. Secondly, it doesn’t bring the professional into touch with their personal gift—that thing they do for the world that no one else does. This is often the case when the primary focus is the customer is king. This assumption tends to permit unwanted client behaviors to stick around, abusing the staff, and lowering morale. Instead, the team is king. Happy teams in turn pay forward great energy and service to great customers. So guarding your gateway carefully is important. When ideal clients are serviced, the natural voluntary energy becomes art. Answering emails to demanding, non-preferred clients is no fun. But working with people who see your opportunity is a blast.
First, make a fundamental choice and choose to become the predominant creative force in your life and not circumstances. This suggests that you organize your decisions around what matters to you more than what circumstances are trending in your life right now. From this decision, you begin to live by inventing yourself and not being invented by what is going on. You should keep a keen awareness of what is going on next to what you want, but do not generate action primarily from this source, and stay true to yourself. This is a powerful choice you can make at any time. Nothing disqualifies you from choosing to make what matters to you the center of gravity from which all your decisions, actions, and communications will obey.
Time block your weeks, months, and quarters with days to do maintenance on your business. Schedule 6-8 of these to go backstage and equip, teach, delegate, and build your team to new levels of capability. The law of short reverse indicates the slingshot effect. When you take a few steps back, you more effectively launch massive steps ahead. Execution is one thing, but execution with planning, preparation, and mindfulness is huge. This is called “delegation confidence building”, or “dcb.”
DCB involves several tactics to furnish the context of your email tasks:
1) Tell and Show
2) The 3 P’s.
Tell and show your support staff, then have them tell and show you. It’s a great way to help them assimilate rapidly what you’re teaching. Second, when inserting an email decision-tree, layout in sections the types of emails that you receive and from where. For example, ”Client Service Requests,” “Underwriting,” and “New Business.” Strategize around these into buckets, and then determine steps to handling them. As you map these out, cover the purpose, the process, and payoff.
Furnish the context of each decision tree with the purpose of the task, why it matters to do it this way, and what advantage it has. Then the process, 123, and then the payoff (what’s in it for the delegate). The Tell and Show and 3 P’s decrease what I call “drive-by delegation,” which is committing the sin of generating more work for you when things aren’t communicated clearly or setup well. We have another word for this dynamic, “scope-creep.” Scope-creep is when you fatten your scope of work to the extent that you’re crept upon and suddenly paralyzed, drowning, and immobilized.
Second, stick to your daily schedule fanatically. Schedule three time blocks per day for staying on top of email on offense and not defense. You’d rather be the one who creates freedom to live well on purpose building your dreams by having an unfinished inbox and a few tolerable complainers than to have an empty inbox and no life or creativity available at all. Clean in-boxes make you a hopeless doer and not a master and commander of dream creation. Even if you could clear your inbox, complainers are complainers; it’s not you. Just weed the garden often and carefully.
Keep a special folder called “action” for emails you retrieve, cannot answer within 2 minutes, and require qualitative thought on your terms. When relaying emails to support staff or peer team members, be clear in the subject line as to the name of the task, today’s date, and the person’s initials who are taking on the task for you. Cc yourself on the email and keep it in a “waiting” folder to watchtower who you’re waiting on to complete certain tasks.
Learn to say no, and no thank you, politely. Setting boundaries is mission critical to operating at your very best, and to helping people take delivery of the best abilities you have for them. It’s about quality and not a quantity view in life. If you say no, you can schedule it at a time that works for you later on, so you’re ready and prepared, which is what you owe your clients and peers. Preparation always increases value creation and the allocation of your best talents, which increases your earning power ultimately. And greater earning power means buying more time. Money is time; that’s all it buys. You either pay to have someone do it for you and/or free yourself up to enjoy life time.
Let go of the idea that access equals success. Find ways to offset speed with quality by trading it with your clients. They want quality as long as they know what’s worth waiting for. And lastly, focus on creating value for ideal clients and punting the remaining duds. When you weed the garden and focus your attention on ideal clients, they appreciate your gifts and abilities and will forgive speed, even more, in return for your passions going to work for their good.