I’m a little embarrassed about this post. Why? I’m going to let you in on a super bad habit of mine – one that I’m trying to break.
I’m the worst at email. And it almost cost me my good standing with a client.
See what I did wrong and why I’m embracing the zero inbox email approach to make myself accountable.
How My Cluttered Inbox Almost Cost Me a Freelance Writing Client
Since I spend all day on the computer writing copy, the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is check my email.
I’m telling you – If you want to get in touch with me, suffice to say, email is the worst way to do it.
hundreds thousands of unread emails splashed across the different email accounts I use (personal, professional, and the junk mail/newsletters/etc). And I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed by email.
Yet, as a freelance writer, email is the medium that my clients use to check in with me. I know I can’t afford to be terrible about email, yet it’s my one productivity Achilles’ heel.
Here’s a story of how I almost missed a super-important work email and why I’m not committed to a zero inbox (not there yet, but getting to it) so it never happens again.
A regular client of mine emailed last month to ask if I wanted to complete a series of technology blog posts for him. We scheduled a phone chat, discussed the work, picked a starting point, and I got going. He wanted two posts in two weeks, which was fine with me. I just had an extended long weekend for Passover to work around.
The client checked in to see where things were going. My inbox being what it was, the email got lost. For 3-4 days.
By the time I found it, I was super embarrassed and under a lot of stress since I was due to leave for Passover with the in-laws in a day and a half.
Mortified, I emailed him back to say I’d have the two posts to him the next day. And then got to work completing post #2 under a ton of deadline stress.
My client was laid back about it – after all, I still got the work in on time – but I thought it was too close of a call for comfort.
Why Freelance Writers Should Care About a Zero Inbox
The top reason I decided I’d getter better about email management was simple. I felt awful and super stressed when I realized I’d missed my client’s email for several days.
We had a regular rapport and I felt like I’d let him down.
Sure, it was an honest mistake. But it wasn’t one I wanted to make again.
So reducing stress was a primary motivation for me.
Second, I wanted this client to continue to think well of me and give me referrals. The last thing I wanted was for my client to remember that hearing back from me took a while.
If I could clear out the email clutter I’d be more likely to see and respond to important emails in the future, demonstrating my responsiveness with clients.
Third, I am lucky I have great time management skills and that I could quickly turn around work for my client. But I wanted to reduce the likelihood of an unexpected surprise like that in the future, when I might not have the time to respond.
Getting to Zero
So how do you get a zero inbox?
Search and destroy (read/trash) ALL the unread emails in your inbox.
Delete what you don’t need.
Respond when emails come in. If you read an email and don’t respond right away, mark it as unread to prompt yourself to respond.
Actually unsubscribe from those newsletters you don’t want or read. Or set the, to “mark as read” and go to a folder where you can read them later if you don’t actually want to unsubscribe.
KISSmetrics has a great guide on how to give yourself permission to say no regarding email that can be helpful if you’re interested in getting your inbox to zero.
So maybe it’s not simple. But if you tackle it a little at a time, it’s not overwhelming. And it really makes a difference. I’m not down to zero yet. But since starting to reduce my email last week I’ve been much better about replying to incoming emails right away.
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