Oh my goodness…anyone else have a crazy week? My poor Prius was hit by a bus (we’re okay, guys!)…my internet went offline at the worst time (currently bringing most of this blog to you from my iPhone! #RealLife)…there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done…the list goes on and on! I’m welcoming the weekend with open arms, and it is going to be a good one! I’m off to Penn State for a sweet engagement session and some football weekend fun!
I have a confession to make guys (and it may not come as a surprise to many of you at all!): I am a total workholic. I love what I do so much, that it sometimes becomes ALL that I do. Being a small business owner can truly be all consuming at times. Any other business owners feel the same way? When work is literally just across the room from where you sleep, on the phone you keep in your pocket, and stems from the relationships you build each day, it is easy to let work become all that you do.
I’ve found that one of the biggest distractions (and therefore biggest time-sucks!!) that I have in my business & daily life is email! I use Gmail as my primary platform for email, and I love it so much that it has almost become an extension of my brain. But, all too often, I’ve found myself spending far too much time in this app. So much so that I have been working on rethinking my relationship with email all together!
When it comes to pretty much anything, it is so important to set your boundaries and limits. BALANCE, y’all! My personal scale is still tilted way towards work, but, like I said, we’re working on it!
I’m working on setting boundaries in my business and personal life, and I’ve started with Gmail. Below, we’ll dive into FIVE of my favorite tips to help you create a healthy relationship with your inbox.
Five Tips to help Manage your Relationship with your Inbox
Set and stick to email hours
If you’re like me, you love to respond to emails the moment you receive them–it truly stresses me out to no end to know that I have emails to respond to. But, you’ll learn pretty quickly that this is a great way to burn yourself out. Tune into your life, look at your schedule, your to-do list and priority items. Set specific hours to work through your inbox, and stick to them!
My current hours? Monday-Friday in the evenings after I get home from work and Sunday mornings & evenings. I’ve made the decision to completely stay off email on Saturdays! I looked at my calendar and realized that, if I’m not shooting a wedding on a Saturday, I should be doing other things like getting some life admin taken care of (read: laundry, cleaning & meal planning!), traveling, sleeping, spending time with the people I love, getting caught up on business tasks that don’t require email (like shooting engagement sessions, edits, design work, goal setting, education, accounting, you get the point!) OR I should be taking the day to recharge! Set email boundaries and stick to them.
Remove your email apps from your phone or turn off your push notifications
If you currently receive a push notification for most of the emails that you receive, I want to challenge you to turn them all off–seriously! Grab your phone right now, open up your settings and switch ’em off! If you are easing into a new and improved relationship with your inbox (like I am!), start here. I cannot tell you how freeing it was to not receive a notification for every email that comes my way. You truly become in control of when you are on email, instead of letting your mind wander, every time you receive a new inquiry, response or newsletter. If you want to make a dramatic change right from the start, just go for it and delete all of your email apps from your phone!
Only open if you plan to respond or archive
I’m still working on this one! But, avoid the temptation of reading your emails before you are ready to reply. You set your email hours, right? Stick to them, and avoid the temptation of opening up that inbox when your mind starts to wander. If you are opening your email on the Metro, in line at the grocery store, with friends, in between tasks, literally anywhere else but your desk, you are truly not present enough to read, comprehend and respond to the email, so why waste your precious time? I truly believe that, to craft comprehensive, appropriate and efficient responses, you have to be ready to read, focused on the message at hand, and able to respond when you are in the right mindset. Now, if you need a moment to think before responding when you are in work mode, that is totally fine, however, you should always place yourself in a productive work environment before getting to that crazy inbox!
Pre-draft & schedule emails
If you haven’t heard of two little Gmail plugins–one called Boomerang & another called Canned Responses, you need both in your life ASAP! These amazing little tools have increased my productivity like crazy. Boomerang allows you to draft and schedule emails to go out whenever you need them to. It is amazing! If you are hearing from me on a Saturday or during the day, odds are, your email is coming from Boomerang. It is so important to me that you are receiving my email at an hour that is convenient for you to read so, I have started scheduling many of them!
I am also the biggest cheerleader for canned responses! Photogs & business owners: how often do you type emails out throughout your workflow with individual clients that almost mirror each other? From style guides to to-do lists to reminders & everything in between, know that there is a way to SAVE your email responses to a little folder on your drafts. All you have to do is click, add and customize your response for each client! This has saved me hours and hours over the last season (and as a bonus? You never forget to include something in your email because you’ve already looked over everything!) Learn more about how to set it up here!
Understand that it is OKAY to turn off work
Guys… confession: this point is totally just here as a reminder to ME! As a small business owner, it is so easy to go go go 110% of the time. But, this is such an easy way to burn yourself to a crisp in about 10 days flat. I am slowly working on my relationship with my inbox and when I am choosing to spend my time answering emails. Know when to turn it off, and remind yourself that it is okay to not be accessible 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You deserve to live and enjoy your life without the distraction of your inbox while your business thrives. Set your hours and stick to them. Life is far too short to spend all of your time in your inbox!
If you feel like your hours may be a little crazier than what is healthy, or you feel like work may slowly be taking over your life, if you crave a little bit of balance in your life and want to get back to growing your business & spending time with the people you love instead of sitting behind a computer day in and day out, I hope these tips help you free yourself from your inbox!