Truly the holy grail when it comes to email is getting your email to no items in it and everything completed quickly, accurately, and on-time. But why would having no email in your inbox be such a benefit to you and how can achieve this? Today I will be covering the struggle I had in achieving inbox zero and then how it has increased my productivity, my health (I think so), completed items on-time, and increased overall communication in the company.
Inbox zero is exactly as it sounds. You have no email in your inbox. This doesn’t mean you select all and press delete or just file emails away into folders you never look at. This takes time, a concerted effort, and a backend system to allow it to happen. Without this I don’t think I could reliably or consistently achieve this.
The first step I had to figure out was how could I get to no emails consistently. I determined to start on a weekly basis where at the end of the week I would have no emails. This sounded great in my head but was a complete and utter failure. Mainly from the standpoint that I looked and rushed things to get them out of my inbox. After several months of this method I saw the holes in what I was doing and looked for ways to fix them.
I need a system that allowed me to move my emails out of the inbox but still be able to address them consistently, reliably, and on-time. Around 40% of my emails were not quick one-hit answers. They took either days, weeks, or sometimes months to complete them. I could reply and keep a pad of paper to try and achieve this, but it didn’t add a layer of reminding or ability to share with the team.
What I ended up doing was integrating my desire for inbox zero with a CRM system. A CRM system is a Customer Relationship Management system. Think of it as an electronic rolodex on steroids. You will keep track of all your customers (clients to us), assign tasks to them (e.g. track what you’re doing), and keep all your records centrally located. There’s more to it but that’s a good high-level overview of what a CRM system is.
By integrating a CRM into my inbox zero plan I was able to put all the emails that would take longer than a quick answer into the CRM system to track. Eventually I have also ended up with the quick emails to also be in the CRM system as well. This achieve a couple of objectives that has further benefits beyond email.
The benefit of the above has done several things for our company to take it to a very profitable and more consistent company.
By determining the number of emails and hours we are spending on our clients we can now more accurately suggest moving up/down in-service plans, determine if we are hitting our targeted numbers (e.g. profit), or if we need to adjust our pricing. Most companies will guess and not know where their time is going. I can now see, by department, where we are spending the most time. If I need to hire in a specific department or move more internal assets to another department.
This change to a CRM has allowed us to be a lot more efficient and provide more value to our clients. We can work more collaboratively together as well which has made it so that we can accomplish more in less time. From a business owner perspective this means we can do more, in less time, and save on payroll dollars.
With the CRM in-place I have been able to move from trying (keyword: try) to hit inbox zero each week to achieving inbox zero daily. When I end my day I shutdown with no emails in my inbox and all items that are still open in our CRM system which will shoot me a reminder of items due the next day, week, month, and later when I start my work day.
Reaching inbox zero has taken me over a year to achieve and I still don’t hit it 100% of the time. I can say I am hitting it more every day and each day it does get easier.
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