If you’re anything like me, an entrepreneur and president of a small business, e-mail may have gotten the better of you. Recently I realized that my role had become 95 percent “e-mail related” and 5 percent “progress related.” My can-do attitude never wanted to proceed with the important projects before all of my e-mails were taken care of. Does this sound familiar?
Determined to make a change, I set a goal to stop being an e-mail addict and start growing my company and building my brand. If you're feeling like you're in the same productivity trap, these five simple steps will get you back on the right track.
Install an Office Chat System
Using an interoffice messaging system can increase your productivity in two ways. First, it facilitates communication by allowing for the fast and informal exchange of information, since both e-mails and phone calls involve far more of a time commitment. Quickly and easily sharing links, images and documents with this medium is much more efficient. Second, chat systems enable you to pause communication when you don't want to be distracted–say, when you're in a meeting or working on a project–by simply changing your status to “busy or unavailable.” Chat systems like Hip Chat can also archive all communication history and files online for review.
Use Basecamp in Lieu of E-mail
To avoid a lot of unnecessary back and forth e-mail among multiple employees, try using Basecamp for projects. Keeping organized is one of the best ways to stay focused and productive, and this online collaboration and project management tool can help.
Upgrade to an E-Mail Client With Cloud Computing
Try Google Apps or Microsoft Exchange, which allow you to fully maximize the benefit of using your smartphone for quick and convenient e-mail work while syncing with your computer and online interface. When I am in the Starbucks drive-thru or in pre-school car pool, I can quickly and easily forward, file, respond to or delete emails without feeling like I am taking away from productive work time. Of course, all the information is backed up online, which prevents data loss.
Enable Your E-mail Autoresponder
Although automated responses are typically used only when you're out of the office, it should also be considered for other situations. When working on an important or time-sensitive project, try enabling this functionality so that a return e-mail response is sent containing a “busy” message with the contact information of an assistant or co-worker who is available to address the email. This allows you to unplug in a guilt-free way and avoid a pile up of messages requiring your attention.
Know When to Disconnect Entirely
Aside from scheduling two to three blocks of time per day to devote to e-mail, I stopped reading e-mail at night altogether. As much as I enjoy working in the evenings and tend to accomplish a lot during this uninterrupted time, I decided that in order for me to tackle projects that required research and creative thinking, I needed to disconnect from e-mail completely during this time.
In addition to increased productivity, this has reduced my stress level significantly. Now, I am able to avoid getting sidetracked with problems that used to keep me up at night.
After implementing these five easy steps, I became a creative contributor to my business again. I am now free to work on branding, new profit centers and really add value to our company!
OPEN Cardmember Susie Fougerousse is the President of Rosenberry Rooms, a leading online retailer offering high-end children’s furniture, décor, gifts and gear.