E-mail was originally intended to provide a simple means of communication between two people. But in the 21st century it’s double-edged sword. It’s both a business lifeline and an unwieldy monster. Start to reconsider how you use e-mail, unchain yourself from your inbox, and improve the way you manage your business.
Not a Total Business Solution
Think about all the ways you use e-mail beyond communications. If you’re like me (or how I used to be) then probably for project management, contact management, file storage, task tracking, event scheduling, sales pipeline, news feed… and much more. Start to find purpose-built tools for these tasks and you will be surprised at how much you can improve your business processes.
Two requirements for the tools we choose to ensure they will serve us well into the future.
We need collaboration. Most e-mail accounts need to remain private for legitimate business reasons. But that privacy means that most of what goes into your inbox gets hidden from your team forever – unless you take the time to share it with them. We will only consider tools that promote collaboration.
We need mobility. You no longer just work at your desk. You might work from four different devices during the course of your day (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone) and our tools should be accessible from all devices.
When new business enquiries arrive (new tour group, new student) be sure to immediately get the core data out of the e-mail and into your CRM (and sales pipeline system if you use one). Otherwise if business is going well, earlier opportunities will get pushed down your inbox, forgotten, and lost.
It’s too easy to forget important tasks if they are stored in e-mail – even if you do flag, star and categorise them. There are great task-tracking tools on the market like Evernote.com and Astrid.com. At SiteCaddy, we use Zendesk.com to create tickets for all tasks related to client requests and Jira.com for all internal tasks.
Never store files in e-mails. You can’t search them, you can’t share them, and it will slow down the operation of your e-mail software. If you are the only one that needs the file, then save it to your computer. But if the file needs to be shared, then use a tool like Dropbox.com or Drive.google.com to store files in the cloud and make them accessible to team members.
When a conversation gets into some length or includes more than two people, consider conversation management tools like Hipchat.com or Campfirenow.com. These tools not only allow you to share ideas, but also to connect assets like files, tasks and schedules with the conversation.
Conversations, files, tasks… they are often part of an overarching project. Let’s say you’re finally going to build that extension to the clubhouse. Messages and files from contractors, members, regulators… nightmare! Project management systems such as Basecamp.com and Trello.com can help you to combine everything: collaboration, conversation, file and task management, scheduling, and much more. There is some overhead involved in getting used to it, but I would never touch a large project without a system like these.
Of course the easiest way to manage your inbox is by reducing the number of e-mails you receive. If you do not read e-mail from a certain source, then unsubscribe. You can always join again. And most publications offer RSS feeds in addition to e-mail. Unsubscribe from the e-mail, and read the news online using an RSS aggregator: most browsers either have them built-in or offer them as extensions.