How To Inbox Zero

Managing emails is yet another process that clogs our day to day. Back before the advent of emails, it was letters that clogged our world. Now, emails are the virtual clutter in our life.

We generate a staggering number of emails and receive even more on a daily basis and they all have to end up somewhere. It is no wonder that being overwhelmed by emails is a common occurrence but it doesn’t have to be that way.

How to Inbox Zero

Unfortunately I’m going to have to remind you of the nagging that your mother or father might have had in store for you when you were younger. If you tidy up your toys each day you won’t have such a mess.

How do we get out of control in the first place?

It is a matter of lack of discipline, lack of motivation and not controlling what comes in through the front door.

  1. Control
  2. Discipline
  3. Motivation

You are the boss!

Unless you have money to spend on employing someone to manage your inbox you are going to have to get a grip of this yourself.

Every action requires you to be in the driving seat so you are going to have to roll up your sleeves.

What are the drawbacks of a bloated inbox?

  • Simple actions take longer
  • It is difficult to differentiate what is important amongst the competing demand
  • You are far more likely to get lost in your emails rather than being pinpoint accurate with your time spent
  • You start to run close to your inbox size limit which may prevent new emails filtering through

Bloated inboxes need continuous scrolling up and down to find what you are looking for and may force you to use the search function more frequently.

 

What Mindset Do You Need To Get Clear?

You need to cast aside some of your sentimentality when cleaning out your inbox. A bad inbox displays signs that you are a hoarder. Sentimentality combined with de-motivation and a lazy bone or two may be what has led to this problem.

A pro-active approach is needed.

You need to assign an hour per day to this task. Can’t do an hour? Try 30 minutes. You won’t get enough done in 10.

Determining Which Kind of Strategy To Start With

There are two types of email inbox user. Low and High volume receivers form the two groups.

 

High Volume Receivers

A high volume receiver is receiving between 100+ emails a day. You’ve got a serious problem so it benefits you to go through the whole shrinking process from Phase 1: Step 1.

Low Volume Receivers

You can get started on deleting the bulk of email straight away so skip to Phase 1: Step 3 unless you think you can benefit from shrinking your intake down.

Important Exceptions to Mention Before Starting:

During legal proceedings it is best to retain all emails regardless of how little importance you may associate with them. However, I would strongly recommend saving them by printing them to .pdf and where necessary, print to hard copy. They will require their own folder. With legal documentation, don’t delete if you are unsure as it may be difficult to recover later.

Deletion is not always final

Often there might be a ‘deleted’ folder. This will give you a second chance to rescue something before it is deleted forever.

If your inbox size is at its maximum, you may need to ensure that all emails in the deleted folder are permanently deleted before your overall mailbox size is restored and you can start using your account properly.

It is good practice to clean out your deleted emails on a regular basis. In some cases, deleted files will be cleaned off by the system every 30 days. Some systems do this sooner.

THE PROCESS

Phase 1: Purge

The Purge Phase involves you taking a two-pronged attack to your email. You start with what is coming in then end by what you’ve already received.

Why start with what is coming in?

If you don’t start with what is coming in you will soon be overwhelmed by a wealth of emails you don’t need. You won’t have solved the frequency problem. The deletion stage will be longer lasting because you have already destroyed the source of the nuisance.

 

Step 1: Sort by Sender

The most effective way to start stripping back your emails is to sort your emails by sender.

 

Step 2: Eliminate

Don’t delete all of the emails before unsubscribing if you are on a mail subscription. You need to unsubscribe first then delete.

Eliminate the senders that you don’t want to receive content from anymore. Select all of their emails and delete them.

Mark spam as spam. Rather than a simple delete some of the email clients give you a chance to identify spam. Normally spam originates from dodgy named email origins and uses unusual subject lines.

If possible, block those individuals that you continuously delete from, one by one.

 

Step 3: Sort by Date (oldest first)

Important note: some of your mail may still be important so don’t delete unless you are sure.

Create a folder or have a folder free to transfer emails to. This will vary depending on your provider.

Work from the oldest to the newest, deleting non relevant emails. Transfer relevant emails to the other folder. You can “star” or flag important emails.

Whilst in this process, if you have important documents, consider whether they are more appropriately kept as a hard copy. Some bank letters are better kept offline as a hard copy but even these lose their importance after 6 years.

Those items with attachments that are useful can be downloaded. When you are satisfied that the document has been handled correctly you can delete.

 

Step 4: Repeat this Process

Repeat the whole process in 4 weeks’ time as emails mount up again. There may be some emails that aren’t caught on your first sweep with regards subscription or blocking.

 

Phase 2: Organise

Create a number of folders to store the emails from recipients you know you will be keeping in future.

Tips for users with POP mail accounts on a local client:

If using a POP mail account (One that provides a local storage of emails such as Outlook), you can set up some “rules” for your emails.

Suggested rules:

  • Move to folder
  • Move to folder and provide an alert
  • Send to Deleted items**

**Try to avoid receiving these in the first place.

Outlook looks like so:-

Rules can be found along the top of the menu. Microsoft have made this screen a bit muddled.

Rules can be found along the top of the menu. Microsoft have made this screen a bit muddled.

 

Following the wizard is the easiest path to success.

Following the wizard is the easiest path to success.

 

Phase 3: Manage

Every day, check your mail and action changes.

  • Unsubscribe if you don’t need the emails you are receiving. If you find yourself deleting immediately on a regular basis, unsubscribe.
  • Mark spam as spam to train the spam filter.
  • Delete those emails that are not important. Everything is not important after 6 months unless it is a bill you have to keep and then you should consider saving it as a hard copy.
  • Place important emails in folders after responding or taking action on them.
  • Decommission important emails after their time has passed by printing to .pdf

If your email starts getting out of control again, start from Phase 1. Rinse and repeat.

 

In Closing

You should find a great deal of relief in having an empty inbox on a regular basis. It is good to know that everything is sorted. You will find that your efficiency will increase and you will know where everything important is.

If you’ve found this guide useful, feel free to share.

If you have any improvements to this process or any other considerations you’d like to share, let me know.

For Bloggers

I use FastMail as my email client, its fast, functional and easy to set up. Currently the Affiliate link is down therefore I won’t display any warnings here but I would still recommend the service.

I also wrote this article of my first thoughts, more food for thought.

Rules can be setup to manage your emails as per below:-

Found in "Settings" under "Rules"

Found in “Settings” under “Rules”

The resulting rule can be edited if it doesn't perform as expected.

The resulting rule can be edited if it doesn’t perform as expected.

More Useful Links on the Subject

 

Image Credits

Featured image by Andi_Munich via Pixabay

Motivations for starting an online business

Blogging can be fun and is a great way to social. Blogging can also be a way to entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur means that you are running your own business and as I have mentioned many posts ago, an entrepreneur doesn’t imply success. You can be an Entrepreneur and be failing (but you are still an Entrepreneur).

Motivations for starting an online business

Motivations for starting an online business

Image Source: Pixabay

 

Kevin Duncan, author of “What you need to know about writing a business”, raises a number of good points on why you might aim to strike out on your own and highlights these as positive points:

  • I hated my boss
  • Couldn’t stand the politics
  • Frustration with current job
  • Got fired or made redundant
  • I am, or I became, unemployable
  • Convinced there must be a better way
  • Wanted to be my own boss / have more control
  • The chance to use my brain for my own benefit
  • Run my life as I want
  • Life changes everything
  • Wanted to take a risk
  • Always wanted to
  • Wanted the challenge
  • Wanted to create my own dream job
  • Spotted an opportunity
  • Had a safety net
  • Wanted to make a lot of money
  • A combination of fear and ambition

But on the sharp end of the reasons why you might want to change things up, Kevin indicates 6 key areas where you might be thinking rather negatively:

  1. Petulantly trying to prove a point
  2. Revenge against a former employer / employee / rival
  3. Just in it for the money
  4. Wanting a short term fix
  5. Deciding on a whim
  6. Diving into an idea you have not considered until recently

Looking deeper at the negatives

Petulantly trying to prove a point is a bad way to go. Looking like a rant monkey on the surface is not going to get you to the end zone. It is more likely to attract ridicule.

Revenge is mine sayeth the lord. Quotes aside, revenge is a dangerous emotion and most of us will have some first hand experience. It is born of rash thoughts and can lead us take less than rational choices.

Being just in it for the money is the quickest way to ruin. Brilliant things are born of passion, enjoyment and a connection to what we do and what we do well. The smell of money wrangling hangs on certain bloggers and it can be off-putting.

I hope that any sensible blogger knows it takes ages to get to a critical mass. You can’t truly effect a short term fix without having learnt the hard way. I don’t believe in first try heroes but you have to expect that you need to put in some quality time to get things up to speed. There are very few quick paths to victory, especially in the hyper competition sea.

Decisions made on a whim are incredibly whimsical. This ties in very closely to wanting a short term fix. If you make decisions on a thought you had one day, don’t be disappointed if you get bored with the idea very quickly. You are then tied to something you painfully have to end, or worse, suffer for a few months before giving up.

Making that dive is also a risky move. Taking Blog Prefect as an example, I took a period of 3 months to decide on what I wanted to do and in retrospect, wish I’d spent longer but overall I was happy with the direction. I do occasionally get some itchy feet on the whole idea and there have been some of the bigger bloggers who’ve felt rather nervous about their babies as far as a year to two years into the project. It is hard to say what is too short a time but I’d say that anything less than 2 weeks without a team of people to chip in, is not going to go as well as you might hope.

 

A nod to implementation

The implementation of an idea is the most important part of applying a strategy. Having an implementation plan when starting out is crucial. My implementation plan for starting Blog Prefect was sketchy and devoid of some key elements which were added in contingent fashion after the fact. As you start to build your blog more and more, you start to build capabilities which aid you the next time you start because you’ve had time to learn what works and what doesn’t, you know what toolset you need to succeed, even if your idea is completely different to your previous effort.

Having those basic building blocks, having a network that already knows you and knowing that you can do it are all pre-requisites to doing things awesome. You can’t get there without laying down your first try, and your first try could make you or break you (specifically defeating your will).

 

Conclusion

Kevin Duncan finally highlights that “doing what you love” is the best strategy. Doing what you love enables you to wrestle through the painful and hard times. Those times where the challenge outweighs the result. Doing what you love allows you to bounce back from the setbacks because you love what you do and have a vested interest in overriding the failures, and riding your way back to success.

When is the best day to publish a blog post in 2014

I wrote an article in 2013 about this very subject and it was warmly received. When you know the best day to publish, you don’t waste time.

When is the best day to publish a blog post in 2014

the best day to publish a blog post in 2014

Girl’s Day: Image Source Wikipedia

Analysis 1: Mega Days

I came up with the term “Mega Days” to outline one specific day of the week that out performs all of the others. I used to believe that Tuesday was this prime day but as you will see from my data this “Mega” day has shifted from time to time.

 

Analysis 2: Performing Days (those with recorded visitors that didn’t bounce)

Another important concept is that I apply segmentation to my data in Google analytics to help determine the difference between a “bouncing” visitor and an “engaged” visitor. I determine this by applying a filter that strains out anybody viewing below 30 seconds. I deem that 30 seconds is the minimum imprint that a visitor needs to leave to have read the article to any minimal depth.

 

Analysis 3: Days when posts are issued

The obvious final element to record is the days I actually posted material. Since my last sample I have increased the frequency of my posting part way through recording so I have more overall data to analyse.

The Data:

BP Analysis 2014 Jan - Jul

Thursday is now the most common Mega day but in 2013 it was Tuesday. Saturday is the worst performing day. I have a higher level of non-bounce related traffic on a Monday but a reduced level on Saturday. I most commonly put posts out on Tuesday and least commonly put them out on Sunday.

 

Why my data varies to yours

It is important not to take my data, specific to my posting schedule, and rationalise it to your own. The reason is that my audience is different to yours. You could have 20 visitors identical to mine (the same visitor) but they could behave differently due to various environmental factors.

The method I use to publicise my posts is different to yours. To draw parallels is dangerous and you should not look to push square pegs in round holes just because you have some interesting data screaming at you.

 

Why you shouldn’t look to emulate my schedule and why you should develop your own

Certain topics have greater acceptance with audiences on certain days so you have to work on finding what days suit which topic best.

I have discovered that I don’t have content that suits Saturday and that Saturday is a difficult day for any of my topics to gain traction whilst Sunday can be very productive.

 

Observations

Many of the big gun bloggers don’t look to fill days that don’t work, instead they maximise on days that do work because it really doesn’t matter when you get the traffic as long as you get the traffic. This is why later on, when you are heralded as more of an authority, you can relax your posting schedule from frequency in order to target your best performing days.

You have to target creatures of habit so remaining consistent is very important. Due to my sometimes unstable week this can be a difficult challenge.

 

Data Trap

You can quite easily be led into some misleading territory with my data above. The reason behind this is that whilst the numbers look interesting and whilst some periods look bad, this is only because I haven’t trained my audience to expect material on certain days and haven’t found the right outlets to appeal to everybody who might be interested.

What do I mean by training my audience?

Let us take email marketing for an example. Say that you have a mailing list and that you chose Friday as the day when the summary of the week’s articles comes out. This helps train your audience into knowing what they are going to expect on Friday. They anticipate and expect something around this time.

I have discovered this with my common feature; the End of Month Traffic Report. I tend to release this either very near to the 1st of each month, or a few days in. I have noticed that on certain occasions, people who view this information tend to come looking at my site around the end of the month in “anticipation” of the next. I generally get a few views of older reports near the end of the month as a result. This is a way you can pre-condition your audience so that you can drive some form of habit. You want to appeal to your audience in the best time frame for their viewing appetite.

Business people might be really interested on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday about something technical and money-making, but their research cap comes off Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday when they are in the chill zone.

 

Homework for you

If you want to get a bit more serious in knowing how your days are performing, I strongly recommend that you create some form of spreadsheet to track how you are doing. You don’t have to update this as often as you might think but setting some kind of reminder so that you come back to grab the analytics is a wise choice. I tend to perform this sort of update near to the end of a month to coincide with my overall traffic report but it is entirely up to you how often you take on this sort of analysis.

Things to do:

• Create a spreadsheet
• Create a calendar reminder to update this sheet at regular intervals

1. Measure the pageviews and sessions
2. Measure best day of the week (Monday to Sunday)
3. Measure days where you had people meeting the minimum no bounce criteria
4. Measure days where you posted an article

This data should help you to define the most efficient and least efficient days in your schedule and help you form a better pattern of posting.

The results should shine some light on your situation. You may also consider experimenting with the days where you perform badly to try some alternative content.

 

Sticking to one Blog in the beginning helps you keep focus

 

I feel that there is a movement among bloggers that suggests that one is never enough and that you should cast the net wide.

I never try to suggest that one way is right and another way is wrong but what I can say is that I’ve seen a few people get crushed by taking on more than they can cope with.

Sticking to one Blog in the beginning helps you keep focus

Sticking to one Blog in the beginning helps you keep focus

 Image Source: Flickr by Zhao ! /Kodomut

Perhaps of disappointment was my friend’s blog.

He had started out with a concept (and in retrospect he’d pitched it at a very narrow age group). He gave this blog a lot of love for several months and it outperformed my effort quite drastically.

 

But..

 

He didn’t stop at one blog.

He went on to create another blog in a more general niche and in doing so had totally destroyed his ability to concentrate on the important part of updating. He’d been too proud to ask for help.

Before long I noticed both blogs falling into neglect.

After a point, one of the blogs stopped being listed and the other one began to gather dust.

 

Why is that bad?

This blogger had invested a lot. He’d bought an expensive theme (Genesis no less), gone to the trouble of hosting on HostGator, buying the domains and generally putting a lot of man hours into the project.

 

Were these projects actually failing?

No. They just hadn’t hit the prime time.

I’m not sure what the motivation behind stopping was but I sensed that a lot of this had to do with not having the time.

This individual was caught up in a failing business (more of the bricks and mortar kind) in the real world. This individual had also been part of a few other failed businesses and had become accustom to pushing the quit button too soon.

 

So what do I recommend?

Don’t overstretch your empire within the first 6 months. I’ve been blogging for over 12 months on a single blog and have only now been able to find time to write a guest post for another blog. You have to allow some “bedding in” time and it might be longer than you think.

 

Building capability and efficiency

Body building Woman

Image source Wikipedia by Angelus

In the early life of the blog, regardless of what niche or what purpose it serves, you will have to experiment to find the best ways to connect with your audience and find the best ways to provide value to them.

Building up capabilities is important. These are the services you provide, whether you are awesome at delivering tutorials, helpful articles or simply being an opinion that people look up to. Capabilities are the things you do well and you’ll need a few of these to be unique and stand out.

Efficiency develops over time. If you do the same task enough times, you become better at it and faster. In order to be ready for your next blog, you need to have built a suitable efficiency in your existing blog to be able to dual run (or more).

 

Startup burn

Starting up the first time can be difficult because you are a little pregnant of thought in how you go about things. Coming around to start again with something new gives you a false sense of security because you think you have learnt the lessons of what went wrong first time around and know how to start quicker. This doesn’t always pan out the way you might think.

 

Why is that security thought wrong?

Invariably you are going to start writing a new blog about something either mildly different in delivery or totally different to what you have blogged about before. You built up the knowledge about the subject you are writing about in the now, but not about the one you are about to be tackling. There is going to be a learning and experimentation period.

So whilst you might have been able to gain some technical knowledge that will help you with the administration of the site, and whilst you might have developed better ways of generating content ideas and conducting yourself socially, you might not be able to replicate a quicker path to success. You might be in this slow build up to being recognised again as someone who knows what they are talking about and passes out that value effectively.

This is why perhaps it is better to give a bit of time to settling in your prime haunt before you start your poltergeist antics elsewhere. Part of this is that you learn quite a lot from the observations of others and how they go about their business and you’ll be better placed to mimic similar kinds of successes.

 

Butterfly blogger

Butterfly amidst yellow flowersFor a short time I had interest in Asian ladies (specifically from the Far East) and there was this brilliant term that ladies from the Philippines phrased about men who jumped from one lady to another. They called them “butterflies” because they bounced from one flower to another.

This could also be true of bloggers. The danger here is of trying to simultaneously exist in too many places at once and essentially spread yourself too thin, or worse, abandon projects you were working on over periods of time to go and chase something else.

There are two trains of thought;

  1. The first train is that if something really isn’t working, you should move on.
  2. The second train of thought is that you could be claiming defeat too soon and that victory could be just around the corner if you keep trying hard enough.

Both of these trains have merits and demerits in equal measure.

The first train should be liberally applied if:

  • You have really epic failed, it has gone stupendously badly, and it shows no sign of getting better.
  • Where the experiment will potentially cost you a princely sum and therefore is not economic to pursue.

It should be avoided if:

  • You see green shoots.
  • You aren’t trying hard enough.
  • You haven’t sought some help or opinion.

The second train should be boarded when:

  • There is visible sign of activity and with some inspiration you can keep the cogs turning where the formula is easily repeatable.
  • You have not got the time to chop and change (if you are doing the blog thing as a second income, part time hobby or occasional dalliance).

It should be avoided if:

  • You’ve really tried everything.
  • Nobody else has had any visible signs of success with this strategy.
  • It’s just plain wrong and an overwhelming number of people are telling you so.
  • You can’t drum up the enthusiasm any more.
  • The topic is dead.

As you can see, there are swings and roundabouts to both trains.

 

Say that you are succeeding on the green shoots with blog 1…

Your blog is growing but you’ve had this 6 month itch to run something else. The question you should ask yourself is:

“Am I going to endanger my current prospect by spreading myself too thin?”

You’ll know this answer if you have one of the two following mindsets;

  1. I have plenty of flex to write more content. In fact, my current blog has a month of content pre-written and scheduled up.
  2. I am struggling to meet my commitment to my current audience and often feel guilt about not posting enough.

 

The importance of enough startup time

To get a good impact on your new blog it is important to start with a lot of valuable content because as I have discovered and as many new bloggers discover, starting in a vacuum and asking people to stop by can often be the “chicken and egg” situation.

As an example, it took a long time for me to engender comments from my community. They only started to appear after I had one particularly kind passer by make the effort and he informed that my captcha was not working properly which was putting people off. My comments also have come from the “reciprocity” angle, the fact that if I make an effort and contribute, that may be rewarded in kind. When you have enough in the way of social signals, passers-by are more inclined to feel safe. I wrote an particular article about the fear of going first because there is some psychology behind this.

In order to see green shoots you might need to wait a bit. Patience is a virtue.

You have to factor for lower returns initially because often the people you are pitching towards don’t know you are there. You are going to have to figure out ways to “tickle their fancy” proverbially speaking.

All that guano takes time and you are going to be doing that whilst running your other blog (or God forbid, blogs). Common sense dictates that either you’ve worked out enough efficiency to be able to cover all the bases or you’ve got somebody covering your back.

 

Covering your back

If you’ve committed to blog 2 or blog “N” and you don’t have the protective barrier in place to make sure your other blog doesn’t suffer whilst you are moonlighting, you need a little talk with some friends.

Before thinking about this, it is worth considering the return and the potential pitfalls involved with someone reaping the harvest for you.

 

Emphasis on content

Normally it is the content that needs the work. You need fillers to cover the gaps for a while so that you can bring up the efficiency on blog 2. You have some options here, some require more commitment than others, some cost more than others.

 

Buy some written posts

You can buy them cheap on Fiverr for $5. There are some inherent problems with this approach however in that there are some restrictions imposed by some of the sellers, the quality of the article could vary significantly and you might not be getting good value for money.

On top of this issue, you might try to go cheap, finding articles from writers from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. The problem here is that whilst the articles will return in English, not all of them will be legible English. You may need to hire someone to proof and expand these posts and even then, the idea might be a reject.

The commitment level of this approach is quite low but the administration is potentially quite high.

What this doesn’t include:

  • Image creation
  • Video creation

You may have to source these elements separately with similar administration requirements.

 

Hiring a content creator

You could go a bit more pro and hire a part time content creator to keep your posts endowed, they may supplement this creation by sub-contracting further writing or image help but as long as you pay them appropriately they’ll be able to do a better job than just some written posts.

They’ll need access to your blog and be allowed to have a nose about on what you’ve done before. You might have to explain the ropes so that they know how you like to present information and maintain a consistency that your audience prefer.

There are two distinct flavours of content creator:

  1. One where you allow them to take full attribution of all their content with author links.
  2. The creator is a ghost. In other words, they assume your blogging personality and write in your style and take no attribution.

Ghost writers cost more because they can’t add this work to their portfolio. They essentially hand over their intellectual property rights to you. They are useful where you don’t want to look like you were away. They can even respond to comments like you would, allowing no break in service.

Content creators have a moderate commitment but generate low administration burdens. I’d recommend you keep an eye on the quality just to be on the safe side. You don’t want somebody steering your ship into the rocks.

 

Courting with a site manager

To enact the full solution, hiring a website manager may be the way to go. Administration is ultra-low because this guy or gal will outsource numerous tasks and keep your ship running smoothly; they have done this before and know how to keep the site on the straight and narrow. They may even be able to make the site run more efficiently due to their background knowledge. Your commitment to allowing this individual to fully manage your site is high. You have to place a lot of trust in them, they will have access to all of your admin areas and have a possibility to scoop a lot of your privately acquired good ideas which they’ll most likely pass onto future clients or use in their own projects. They won’t come cheap either and expect them to be busy with other clients too!

 

But of course, all of the above is useless if your site doesn’t make money

Kermit in a bath of money

Image Source: Pixabay by LoggaWiggler

That’s right folks. If you are not even turning a magic bean on what you are doing you shouldn’t consider paying to keep something running in your absence, especially if you have no sell.

All of the above scale up on expenditure and if you are not making anything to justify that holding pattern, why spend anything?! If you can find friends or well-wishers to do it for free, that’s a better way to go but you should plan your implementation with some serious thought before making a commitment.

 

Headboy’s Summary

I hope that from what I’ve presented above you will think carefully about the implementation of your next blog and will make sure not to spread yourself too thin.

 

Related Article

When to Expand your Blogging Empire