Top Tips for Managing your Email

I recently wrote about outsourcing your email management to a VA, and why this can be hugely beneficial. While I am a great advocate of this approach, I am also a realist and I know for many people this is just not something they can consider, let alone get on board with.

With that in mind I thought it might be an idea to share some of my tips for getting on top of the Inbox Hell so you can work towards Inbox Zero.

# 1 – Set limits

If any of you have emailed me over the last few weeks you will have noticed I have an auto-responder set. Essentially it explains that my inbox is not monitored constantly, and is instead checked at specific periods throughout the day.

I find this is a great way to manage other people’s expectations. Some people when they send an email, expect an answer immediately; however, others are happy to wait up to 24 hours. For the largest part it depends on the precedent you have set, but also the urgency of the email itself.

Personally I find checking my inbox repeatedly throughout the day is a huge distraction. It is also a great way to procrastinate. If I have a task I don’t want to do, or am struggling with for some reason, you can bet anything I will just hit refresh to see if anything has snuck in that demands my attention. Nine times out of ten, even if it isn’t urgent, I will deal with the new email before tackling the task I’m avoiding.

Even I have my imperfections it would seem!

I know I can’t just change the way I am, so I have to remove the temptation full stop. Instead of spending a day with my inbox open (and therefore easily accessible) I close it throughout the day, and only open it at my pre-specified times.

This can be a great way to ensure your inbox doesn’t rule you, though I admit it can take some getting used to. How often you choose to check your inbox, and when those times are, will greatly depend on you. I have opted for three – early morning, mid-day and approximately 4pm. These times might work for you, or you might prefer to add in a couple of extra ones as well.

The point is, allow yourself time away from your email so you are not being dictated to constantly, or distracted by new requests.

# 2 – Introduce “One Click”

If you have adopted tip 1 you have suddenly drastically reduced the amount of time you have to spend on emails per day. This means you have to be far more efficient when it comes to actually dealing with them.

Over the years I’ve found many people handle their inbox very badly. They will open it up, see a number of new emails and then proceed to browse; perhaps opening a few, reading them, and then moving on to the next one. They might even hop around, cherry picking what they want to focus on. This is a complete waste of time as nothing is being dealt with, which means, at some point, you will have to go back and re-read an email to actually action it.

Stop the madness!

The One Click approach is simply that. Open an email and then click on just one of these buttons – reply, delete or archive/move.

Force yourself to do something with that email.

Does it warrant a reply? If so, provide it there and then. If it’s not your job to handle it, then forward it to whoever it is and CC the original sender in. Get it out of your inbox and in to someone else’s.

Is it simply for information purposes? Is it junk? Is it completely irrelevant? Then delete it! Just get rid of it and move on.

Maybe it’s not something you need this second, but will do later, in which case archive it. Hopefully you will have suitable folders set up so that you can assign such information to the right client, job, category etc. so it’s easy to locate at a later date.

# 3 – Keep it short and sweet

This is actually my favourite tip, and it concerns what to do when you are replying to an email.

Keep your reply as short as possible. In an ideal world, no more than three sentences! If your response is likely to be wordy, and therefore time consuming to produce, you are better picking up the phone and having an actual conversation. Remember those?

Not only is a lengthy response difficult for you to compose, it is also difficult for the recipient to read. Long emails tend to be skip-read, which means important information is lost, and valuable time is wasted. Why take all that time for no benefit?

Complex scenarios and concepts are often much better explained in real time, via an actual conversation. You are then better placed to answer specific questions as and when they pop up, and clarify anything in more detail if required. If you don’t have the time to explain it there and then, make an appointment for either a telephone or face to face meeting.

Get off the email merry-go-round and take back control.

Hope these help, feel free to let me know how you get on, or if you have any tips of your own that help you stay on top of your inbox!

Your phone and the Pavlovian Response

These days phones are almost everywhere. You probably have one in your pocket or handbag, one on your desk at work, and you no doubt have a landline at home too (though these days, it’s often hard to see why). You might even make the distinction between a personal and work mobile, to add more crazy in to the mix.

Phones are there to make communication easier; however, they make getting things done so much harder.

It rings, you answer it; it’s a Pavlovian response and a habit the vast majority of us can’t resist.

However, if you want to get more done it is essential you remember your phone, whatever guise it comes under, is meant to be a tool to help you, not constantly interrupt your day.

Here are my top tips for putting your phone in its place and ensuring you remember who owns who in this relationship!

#1 – Busy? Don’t answer it

You have a phone so you can be reached, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be available constantly. I have a client who will answer her phone no matter where she is – even when in the bathroom!

If you’re busy, you’re busy. Let it go to voicemail, trust me, if it’s important they will leave a message or call back!

#2 – Turn it off

Did you know you can actually turn your phone off? I know, it seems to be news to a lot of other people too. When you really need some quiet, uninterrupted time I strongly suggest turning your phone off. It doesn’t have to be all day, maybe just an hour, but knowing you can’t have any rings, bings or notifications for a whole glorious 60 minutes is an amazing feeling.

Personally I just put my phone on flight mode, but it’s amazing how productive I can be during that short space of time. If nothing else, it stops you being tempted to keep checking if you have missed something. It’s off, just leave it be for a while!

#3 – Respond with a text

If I have my phone on, but I’m not in a position where I can, or want to answer it I tend to cancel the call and immediately reply with a pre-set message such as “Sorry, currently in a meeting, will call you back shortly” or something to that effect.

It can be a great way of acknowledging the call (which is the main reason most people want to answer it in the first place) without being bogged down in having to deal with it there and then. It also buys you some time so the individual won’t phone you back in five minutes simply thinking there was a problem with the connection.

Of course, while everyone can no doubt accept the benefit of having periods of peace and quiet, there is always The Fear. The Fear that the call you miss is going to be the next big lead, client or job. What if they don’t leave a message, and you can’t call them back?

If you suffer from The Fear, then consider getting someone in to handle your calls for you.  Using our call handling service might give you the perfect solution – available for an ongoing basis, or just temporarily to give you the peace and quiet you need to get on with the vital things.

How a VA can make you a better networker

One thing many people struggle with is making the most of their networking activities. It’s all very well finding the time to actually attend a networking meeting either weekly or fortnightly, but doing it right can be all too time consuming for some.

Networking isn’t simply about showing up and passing business cards around. You need to take the time to think about what it is you want to say – you only have 60 seconds to get your point across and make people remember you. Equally, you also need to commit to the follow up. If you’re not going to make the most of any connections or leads that have come your way, you’re totally wasting your time rocking up to an event in the first place.

I have one client who attends, on average, six networking events a week. All, bar one, are morning meetings which he likes because he can get them out of the way before most people have started in the office. However, he came to the realisation that he wasn’t keeping on top of everything effectively, which meant he was essentially wasting his time, and money, by going to all these different events.

In order to help reduce the strain on his time, and ensure that he is being as efficient as possible with his networking activities we have put a few things in place.

60 Seconds

Once a month we have a 10 minute phone call to brainstorm ideas and catch up on what’s been happening in his business. From this chat, and from my general day to day knowledge of what he’s been up to, I am able to write his 60 seconds/elevator pitches for him to use.

He prides himself on not using the same information over and over again, as he wants to keep things interesting for the rest of the people in the room. Thankfully I have a great system set up whereby I know what he has said in which group, and when so there is not likely to be any repetition.

CRMs

When a new member joins one of his groups, or a visitor has attended, he will send me a picture of their business card via WhatsApp. I will then add their details in to his CRM system, along with information of what meeting they attended, if they have been before and if he has set up a one to one meeting with them.

One to Ones

Before you think it, no, I do not attend one to one’s on his behalf! We did talk about it once, and I managed to talk him out of it. However, what I will do is liaise with people to book the one to one’s in the first place, and send confirmation of the appointment once it has been made.

He then records his one to one meetings on his iPhone, and sends me the audio which I will transcribe. From this I complete a “file note” for him, which will be attached to the individual’s record on his CRM and forwarded to them as well. This is to allow them to confirm that he has understood precisely what they do in their business and what sort of opportunities or referrals they are looking for.

I will then add their details in to a database so that in 11 months we will make contact again to arrange another one to one.

Referrals

When he is handed a referral or lead he will always pass me the details so that I can make the initial contact. I will find out precisely what is required, and pass over any information that the prospect needs to be able to make a decision.

If a meeting needs to be arranged, I will schedule it.

From there, the client handles everything else himself.

This is an approach that works perfectly for him, but might not be ideal for everyone. However, I hope it gives you some idea of how outsourcing some tasks could take the pressure off you, and allow you to be more efficient at work.

If you want to have a chat about how you could improve things in your office, why not give me a call on 0161 883 2024 or email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk

What’s the deal with #Hashtags?

When we talk to people about Twitter, one thing that comes up time and time again is the fact it’s just so damn confusing.

“All those hashtags – why can’t people just speak English?”

For many, the humble # makes text seem confusing; but the reality is it’s an integral part of how we communicate online these days.  As such, if you’re going to use Twitter on any meaningful level, you need to find out how to use them.

The basics

The purpose of a #hashtag is to turn any word (or string of words) into a searchable link.  Why’s that important, you may well ask (and again, many do).

Essentially it means you can organise your own content, and track specific topics of discussion based on those particular keywords.

Like cake?  Who doesn’t?  Type #cake in to the Twitter search bar and BOOM – everyone else’s Tweets about #cake will immediately appear in chronological order.

What can you include in a #hashtag?

The reality is you there is no pre-determined list of #hashtags.  Of course there are many that are popular, either trending temporarily, or sticking it out for the longhaul.  But if what you want doesn’t exist, you can simply create your own.

The key thing to remember is you can’t use spaces. If you do add a space, then the next character will form outside of the linkable #hashtag.  Even if you are using multiple words in the same #hashtag you MUST NOT use a space.

If you want to make your #hashtag easier to read, then consider using uppercase letters for the start of each word, for example #LuLovesShoes.

The good news is this won’t change your search results – #lulovesshoes would appear, regardless of capitalisation.

Numbers are supported, so tweet about #50ShadesOfGrey to your heart’s content. However, punctuation marks are not, so commas, fullstops, exclamation points, question marks and apostrophes are out. Forget about asterisks, ampersands or any other special characters.

Make yourself heard

How and why you use #hashtags will depend largely on what you’re trying to achieve, and also your style, tone and voice.

Lu likes to use her #hashtags as an aside, or to convey personality, humour (or more likely, sarcasm). Her current favourites include #SendCoffee #ShoeLove #ShoeGoals #MumOf5 #WhyGodWhy

 

The key to Twitter is getting involved.  Why not spend some time looking around, searching existing #hashtags and seeing what other people are doing?

 

Remember, we’re here to help – so if you need a crash course, or just have a quick question, don’t be afraid to get in touch. Drop us an email: lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk, call 0161 883 2024 or leave a comment.

Social Media Platforms: The Pros and Cons

If you follow our previous blogs, then I think I’ve made it pretty clear during this time that you’re unlikely to just randomly stumble on the perfect mix of social media channels and content – it is something that takes time and will require your attention.

That said, in true Time Saving Heroes style, I have pulled together some quick fire bits of information about various platforms to help you make your decision.

Facebook

Started in 2004 Facebook has the benefit of being a real powerhouse in the digital world. As a result they are a real leader when it comes to innovation and listening to their users. Incidentally, reports indicate there are 1.65 billion active users of Facebook per month, so there’s a good chance your audience will be logging on at some point.

Thanks to how long it’s been operating it’s likely that most people will have a personal account, which means it can be a great place for someone to launch their business presence from. Business pages operate in much the same way as personal pages, and are all pretty intuitive. New features and options are always being added, and you can now include live video and information on particular products and services.

However, over the years Facebook has become more of a pay-to-play space, with businesses being subjected to an increasingly complicated algorithm for generating reach. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on targeted ad’s or don’t want to constantly test out best posting times etc then Facebook may not be for you.

Equally, if your primary audience are teens or millennials, then you may find that they are starting to head elsewhere these days. Younger audience appear to be preferring to use Instagram and Snapchat instead.

Twitter

Slightly younger than Facebook, Twitter still has a wealth of experience and lots to offer. However, while it is growing as an ad platform, the algorithm timeline means you are likely to end up experiencing the same drop in reach as counterparts do on Facebook.

That said, it is a fantastic platform to use if you want to provide instant updates and keep people involved and up to speed with a particular event or product launch. The one drawback may be that user numbers are stalling compared to other networks, and those who are new to the platform don’t necessarily hang around.

Instagram

When you think of Instagram, you immediately think of photos – which makes it a fantastic place to go if you have a visually appealing product to sell. Great content can gain almost instant traction and huge levels of engagement, helping you to reach your audience.

However, as with other networks, algorithms are likely to have an impact on future performance, and increased advertising is sure to see organic posts falling when it comes to reach.

LinkedIn

The oldest social network site of the bunch, LinkedIn is the go to place for professionals, and entirely dominates this space. It is a fantastic place to make genuine business connections and seek out thought leaders in your industry.

However, low numbers of users are actually active (in comparison to other platforms), and as such you often need to post content multiple times to ensure it is seen. The down side is that LinkedIn can become very time consuming, though the rewards for genuine interaction and relationship building are undoubtedly worth it.

 

Pinterest

My personal problem with Pinterest is how addictive it is, but then, that is kind of the point. From a marketing perspective it is a great place to target women, even though it is starting to gain more traction with male audiences.

The ability to add a Buy Now button is fantastic for direct commerce, however, it is essential you have quality photographs of products, and may need to spend money on a commercial photographer. The site can also be a bit confusing at first, and does not lend itself well to those who want a quick-fire way of reaching people.

 

Snapchat

As mentioned previously, Snapchat is becoming increasingly popular with younger audiences, so if this is your target, you’d be daft not to consider this platform. However, it can take some getting used to and the downside is that it can be very hard to track the actual performance of snaps, so you’re never quite sure whether what you’re doing is working.

While content curators are moving in to this space, and will continue to do so, it’s fair to say that Snapchat does still have quite the reputation for being a sexting app.

How much is your time worth?

Here at Time Saving Heroes we provide a variety of different services, but they all boil down to one end goal – to save you, our client, time.

As a business owner you will be only too well aware that time is money, but precisely how much is your time worth?

£25 per hour? £50 per hour? £100 per hour?

Everyone is different, and much will depend on the nature of the work you do and the expertise you bring to the table – but we should all know how much we’re worth on an individual basis to our business.

No matter what you are worth in monetary terms, are you the only person that can bring in that revenue? If you are a sole trader, then clearly, the answer is “yes”. Even if there are other members of your team, perhaps you are the only one that secure the high-end fees. Perhaps you are the only person that generates new income and revenue streams because no one understands the business the way you do – it is, after all, your baby.

It begs the question then why you would waste your time doing tasks that other people could do. Perhaps you don’t see it as wasted, they are no doubt tasks that need to be completed to ensure the proper running of your business – but do you need to be the one who does it?

Have you stopped to consider that for some tasks it would be far more beneficial, financially, to pay someone to do them instead?

Consider the case of Bob (a real client, but not his real name).

Bob is a tiler and, on average, earns £250 per day. He’s very good at what he does, in fact, many regard him as an “artist”. Only Bob can do the physical work that his clients pay him for. Bob’s average day is no longer than six hours. He therefore earns £41.67 per hour.

However, Bob also does all the admin for his business. He dedicates every Monday to answering emails, writing up quotes, sending invoices and doing his bookkeeping. Bob has no real admin experience, is not confident with computers and spends 10 hours every Monday just trying to run his “office”. He admits himself it’s not his forte, and because things are completely ignored Tuesday-Sunday, by the time Monday comes around again it’s a bit of a mess.

Within a week of working with Bob we were able to streamline a lot of his processes and we now only bill him for one hour a week to complete all his admin needs. Yes, this costs him £100pm but in exchange he has now saved himself 10 hours per week – which he has turned in to time he can complete more work. As a result, he can now charge an additional £250 per week, which is a whopping £1,000 per month of extra income (or £900pm if you deduct our fee).

By using Time Saving Heroes he has earnt an additional £900pm! Now, that’s what we call return on investment.

Of course, not everyone is in that position, and we are not suggesting for one second we can produce the same results for all our clients; however, the principal remains the same. By reducing the time you are wasting on things that you can outsource, that we can probably do more efficiently than you because this is our area of expertise, you can dedicate more time to your area of expertise.

Why not give us a call today on 0161 883 2024 to find out how we can help you be more efficient, and make more money?

Your call is important to us – or is it?

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of calling a large company or call centre, you are likely to have been exposed to the joys of the automated system.  The pre-recorded voice asking you to select the correct option (many of which never really make sense) and assuring you, every 30 seconds, that your call is important to them.

 

In an ideal world you might hope that your call would be answered immediately, by a cheerful and helpful real live human being. However, with a large organisation experiencing a high volume of calls, that’s not realistic and most of us accept that.

 

Which is why the small business has an advantage.  Your phones aren’t going to be ringing off the hook, you’re not going to have an automated system, or a queue of frustrated people waiting to speak to you.  You should be able to deliver immediate customer service, answers and resolutions the second your customer needs it.

 

Yet, so many small businesses fail to do that, because they don’t have an effective call answering system.

 

Yes, it should be simple; you have a phone, doesn’t matter if it’s landline or mobile, someone calls, you answer.  Job done.

 

Why then, when we phone sole traders and SMEs do so many calls go unanswered?  You ring, no one’s there. If you’re lucky, maybe there’s a voicemail facility – but do you leave a message?  The reality is few people do.  When they do, statistics (and our own personal experiences) show that very few of these are ever returned.

 

The problem is that if you’re a sole trader, you’re having to wear many hats.  You’ve got to answer the calls, do the customer service, chase down leads, do the marketing, balance the books, keep an eye on stock levels, and do the actual work your customers need.

 

Sometimes you’re so busy you don’t have time to make phone calls – even though doing so will help ensure the next lot of revenue for your business.  Really, when you think about it, it’s daft; however, it happens, and it’s perfectly understandable.

 

It even makes sense.

 

What doesn’t make sense though is recognising it’s an issue, and then doing nothing about it.  Why would you continue to miss calls, and risk missing out on customers and income, when all you have to do is get in touch with us?

 

A quick call to Time Saving Heroes and we can have your calls diverted to one of our receptionists, who will answer them as though they work in your business.  Never miss another call again, provide your customers with a fantastic experience, and increase satisfaction and profits.

 

Call us today on 0161 883 2024 or email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk for more information.