If you’re like most, you have hundreds if not thousands of unread messages. You’re selective in what you read (which is not necessarily a bad thing), and you might even feel stuck in perpetual email hell, depending on the nature of your work.
It is possible to achieve inbox sanity, though it’s going to require a different way of looking at things. Are you ready to be challenged?
Here I explore three simple email productivity tips to help you recover lost time.
Create Rules for Your Emails
At some point, you will be bombarded with opportunity. How you handle it is going to have a massive impact on your overall productivity.
Thus, the need for rules.
Do you accept guest posts on your blog?
Your answer needs to be a hard “yes” or hard “no,” so you can triage quickly. At the very least, you want to say, “we’ll accept guest submissions when X conditions are met.” And X conditions should be clearly defined, so you know when to say “yes.”
I open every email with the intention of deleting or archiving it. That’s one of my rules (you will find some of my other rules in this article).
Takeaway: set rules for your emails so that you aren’t paralyzed in deciding what to do with each message, whether it’s responding, forwarding, deleting, archiving, or otherwise. When you’re clear on next actions for each email, your productivity will increase.
The least efficient way to respond to email of a certain type, especially those where a request is being made, is to write out unique answers individually. This will have an impact on your productivity.
Instead, I suggest setting up templates. These templates should be customizable to the extent that you need them to be. But you should neverstart with a blank page or reinvent the wheel.
Apps like Gmail let you save messages as templates, and even if your provider doesn’t boast such functionality, you can still save your canned responses in plain text files.
Takeaway: whether you’re aware of it or not, you respond to the same kind of email all the time. And most of the time, your response is the same, too (if not, review the last point on creating rules). So, create templates for your most common types of responses and save them for later use.
Delete Last Year’s Emails
I’m probably about to make you a little nervous, though I’m not about to share anything I haven’t shared before.
One of my rules is to clean out last year’s emails. Sure, if there’s something specifically, I want for my memories, safekeeping, documentation, or otherwise, I will save it to the appropriate folder. Same goes for important contacts (don’t forget to save those before deleting your emails!).
But otherwise, your emails are just taking up space (even if just virtual space), and you’re basically never going to get around to responding to or reviewing those messages ever again.
Yep, you dropped some balls. You didn’t get back to some people. Projects fell through the cracks. You should have responded, and you didn’t.
But because of that, you live in a perpetual state of incompletion, and your mental RAM is over capacity. It’s time to complete what has already happened and live in the moment instead of recalling yesterday’s trauma.
Takeaway: Remember – one of my rules is to archive or delete every message, and the goal is to get to inbox zero. So, ideally, by the time a new year has rolled around, I’m already on top of last year’s messages. I do this so I can be complete with last year and focus on this year.
If you like the idea of causing more completion in life, and need actionable steps you can take to engage in the present fully, you will benefit from a reading of my Start Your Year the Right Way. There are plenty of great tips, prompts, and journaling exercises to help lead you to clarity.
It’s going take some work, and a stronger will to get your inbox sorted. But you can do it.
What did you discover here? What step will you be taking towards inbox sanity today?
An earlier post on this topic struck a chord with readers. So, following it up with a more in-depth look at making your artistic ambitions a reality is necessary.
I am a champion of artistic success, and as such, you can think of me as your cheerleader, though you will never see me in tantalizing short skirts. It simply isn’t my style. Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with that.
Before I commit to digital ink anything else I might privately chuckle at and publicly regret, let’s move right into the key steps that will have you effective in reaching your 2022 objectives.
1. Create Your Unfolding Plan
No, not a plan. An unfolding plan.
And while some might argue that’s little more than semantics, I have personally experienced and observed the difference an unfolding plan can make, especially compared to the usual rigmarole of setting New Years Resolutions and hoping and praying they will manifest all on their own. If you’re a proponent of laziness and sloth, this article is not for you, and you would be better served with mainstream spiritual shlock.
The unfolding plan, as you’ve surely inferred already, begins with the end in mind and is unfolded from there.
How to Set Up Your Unfolding Plan
The basic framework is as follows:
Look three months ahead. What will you have accomplished? Envision it in rich detail, including the celebration party that follows, and write it all down as a done deal (e.g., “we have launched a New York Times best-selling book”).
What will you have accomplished in month one (first milestone) to have gotten the outcome defined in the final step? Write that down.
What will you have accomplished in month two (second milestone) to have gotten the outcome defined in the final step? Write that down.
What are the weekly actions that will support you in reaching your milestones and outcome? Create these actions as promises, requests (of others), and conversations to be had.
Create a space to document your accomplishments, update as you go, and review them often. You will be surprised and amazed at what ultimately gets done.
2. Build Your Team
We’re all lone wolves. Only some are willing to admit it.
You will get better results in your endeavors if you allow others to contribute to you and your projects.
Though I’m harping on a point I’ve raised many times already, fundamentally your team can take any form. Not everyone on your team needs to be a paid employee, but ideally, they are personally incentivized.
Hold weekly meetings and ask plenty of questions. Listen to the answers. The ideas you generate together will far surpass anything you can conceivably come up on your own.
Never micromanage. It’s a waste of your time, and it just annoys others when you don’t give them the space and time to fulfill on their promises. Don’t manage people – instead, manage promises and commitments.
And at the risk of sounding trendy, regularly ask “who?” not “how?”
How to Build Your Team
Place a phone call. Be direct in sharing why you’re calling and what the conversation is going to be about. Share your idea and invite them to contribute. Whether you get a “yes” or “no,” accept the answer graciously. The outcome isn’t as important as the action taken. Keep making calls until you have a team of six.
Always take the time to get into their world and ask what’s important to them. There’s a way to help them get what they want through their participation in your project, and it’s your job to identify how that’s going to work.
3. Move Projects Forward with Urgent Concurrency
I’m an adventurer, looking for answers to the questions of creatives in a variety of niches, fields, and industries. This answer must be credited to author Dan Kennedy, and if you can still get in, a subscription to Magnetic Marketing will stimulate viable actions and enrich your creativity prolifically.
“Successful people don’t do one thing, step by step, as we are taught in school,” says Kennedy. “They move multiple projects forward with great urgency.” This discovery was also mentioned in my holiday reflections, and it has been my modus operandi from the moment I heard it.
I run multiple businesses, write daily blog posts, participate in community projects, hold down multiple staff writing and ghostwriting contracts, make music, engage in personal development (I’m currently in a yearlong leadership program), and still have time enough to work out three times per week, keep a social life, and wind down for a couple of hours at the end of each day.
How to Move Projects Forward with Urgency Concurrency
Perfectionism will not serve you. Learn when something is “good enough” and get used to publishing. The only way to get used to publishing is to publish regularly.
Have a start and end time for every activity in your life. Say, “X project must be done by Y time” and be unreasonable with yourself.
Minimize calls, meetings, and other distractions that might take you away from actioning your plan. Commit to weekly progress with every project.
We often assume complete freedom and crystal clarity in moving forward with next steps in our artistic career when we haven’t done the hard work of reflecting on the year past and identifying where and why we’re constrained.
If this describes you, you will profit from a read of my Start Your Year the Right Way, in which targeted prompts will guide you through exercises to complete years past so you are free and clear to act now in the present.
If you are looking for further guidance on the topic, a perusal of my products and services will serve you. I am always adding new solutions to help creatives just like you, and while I’m not affordable, I am worthwhile. Set yourself up to reach your 2022 objectives with flying colors.
What have you taken on in 2022? What do you intend to accomplish? What structures and systems have you implemented?
New Year resolutions be damned. They are typically broken and discarded within 36 days of being created.
Lest you feel special enough to break that barrier, straight for the jugular, resolutions are usually abandoned because people attempt to build on a past of stumbles and failures instead of clearing away the garbage and starting fresh. Building on shaky foundations is foolish, doomed from the start.
For ambitious creatives who still believe in themselves, I prescribe a separate regimen of choosing three words for your year and keeping them visible in your workspace for the duration, a practice author Chris Brogan turned me onto years ago.
Here I will share the three words that lived as possibilities for me this past year, as well as the three words I’ve elected for 2022.
Reflecting on My 3 Words from 2021
Maximize – I discovered the true meaning of maximizing in 2021, in which I was pressed for breakthroughs and expansion in every area of life. I discovered what it means to move multiple projects forward with urgency. I let go of the need to second guess every decision and action. I came to a point of acceptance, that no matter the project, I could create my existence instead of hoping and wishing for a following or waiting for some influencer to recognize me for my talents. I am a champion of artistic success, undeterred by setbacks or failures, which will ultimately serve as the building blocks for my inevitable success.
Optimize – At the dawn of the year, I created my own path to optimization with a YearSheet, and reviewing it now, I can see that it served as my North Star until I was presented with far superior paths. I’m in my third quarter of a yearlong leadership program, in which I got to discover powerful structures for accomplishment. Marketer Russell Brunson’s DotCom Secretswas later layered in, filling some critical knowledge gaps. I got more than just better. I got a breakthrough.
Experiment – At my business coach’s urging, I set out to establish myself as an expert and celebrity in music. And so, experiment I did, with live streams, blogging daily, 18+ platforms, and more. Yet again, I had no way of knowing I would be presented with breakthrough opportunities, and instead of moving idly and frantically from one project to another, as I surely would have done of my own agency, ended up fulfilling on pinpointed, longtime dreams like the Elite Players: All Access Pass online academy. I became a three-time winning, one-time nominated Best Original Score composer of The Nobody Prayer (Original Soundtrack). With Break the Business, I made my first foray into satellite radio. The second edition of the best-selling The Music Entrepreneur Codewas also unleashed.
My 3 Words for 2022
Intention – Beyond my 20% time, my days of dizzying and unfocused experimentation are over. I now know myself better than ever, and I’m settling in for the long haul. I am an author, entrepreneur, and musician, and attempting to remove or tweak any part of that is to mess with my very identity. I declare 2022 a year of powerful, massive, intentional progress in areas that matter most to me.
Recognition – Success, for me, is not about individual accomplishment. And while awards and accolades are desired and welcome, I’ve realized that they rarely serve as vehicles for fulfillment and are sometimes hollower than they appear. I seek a breakthrough in recognition, knowing that it will ultimately mean confronting what I have been avoiding and fearing in recognizing myself and others.
Love – Another bold choice, but I’m ready for the challenge. Love takes many forms, whether it’s self-love, loving another, falling in love, demonstrating love through action, tough love, or otherwise. Breakthrough in this area is wanted, knowing it will mean looking deeply in my own life where love is missing and not freely given.
Choosing Your 3 Words
Over the years, what choosing three words has taught me is this – you are choosing areas where breakthrough is desired.
So, selecting “Relationship” as one of your words when you have no desire of confronting your greatest challenges and fears connected to relationship is incongruent. If you’re not prepared for breakthrough in that area – usually requiring upheaval – opt for something else.
Following intuition is acceptable, though, as you know yourself better than you think you do, and you will choose words better suited to your situation than you might think. Too much pondering can be a hindrance in progress.
Further reading and helpful prompts are also available in my Start Your Year the Right Way, with convenient notetaking space built right into the book. Setting yourself up for a powerful year is a matter of setting the right structures in place, and your discovery begins with identifying profitable practices for your career and life.
If you are seeking council moving forward with your new year plans, and desire to make 2022 a breakthrough year, the premium on my coaching will be worth your while. Get in touch. I do not respond to all emails straightaway, but always get back to potential clients in a timely fashion.
“You can declare completion with anything. You are the most powerful person in your world.”
As my coach took me through a completion exercise, I finally gained closure on sadness that had built up over the course of years, maybe even decades.
This wasn’t one of those high-priced, lay down on a black leather couch and regurgitate your life story over the course of months while paying through the nose for someone to listen to you kind of sessions. It was done rapidly, over the phone, in a manner of minutes.
Completion can happen that quickly.
As a champion of artists and an avid adventurer in search of new things that will support you on your journey, I prescribe a regimen of yearly closure, be it the method that follows (originally crafted by leadership trainer Michael Hyatt), or another. Either way, it will become an integral part of your yearly routine if you let it.
7 Questions to Close the Chapter on Another Year
These seven questions form the foundation of your thinking and reflection time and once completed, prevent you from dragging last year’s baggage into this year’s. Best not carry the stench of yesteryear into another, because 2022 doesn’t want to hear about 2021 anymore.
Use my answers as a starting point for generating your own.
If the last year were a movie in your life, what would the genre be?
Martial arts drama (like The Karate Kid). I signed up for a yearlong leadership program in June and completed two quarters. I’m currently in my third quarter.
It’s a bit of a blur looking back, so an 80s training montage seems appropriate, and it’s far more entertaining for the audience, too, in lieu of watching every painful pushup being knocked out.
What were the two or three major themes that kept recurring?
When I signed up for the yearlong leadership program, I enrolled in a rollercoaster ride, plain and simple. The program is designed to overwhelm with calls, meetings, and requests. At times, I dragged my feet like a whiny and spoiled child looking for an escape, at times embracing and rising to the challenge of a full life – much fuller than I ever thought possible.
Another major theme is that of rediscovering my passion and purpose. And I see now my inner performer is breathing a prolonged, silent death as the world succumbs to insane, irrational, draconian restrictions hatched by scheming elites and politicians who are bent on collapsing the economy to replace it with a better system of slavery.
I will never be fulfilled just being a writer, marketer, and entrepreneur. And I will never be fulfilled just being a musician. The two are inseparable, and they make my world go around. The performer in me is starving for an outlet.
What did you accomplish this year that you are most proud of?
I have a closer relationship with my sister – as well as some of my friends – than I have ever had. I communicate more with my mom and my family.
What do you feel you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t?
I have received acknowledgement in virtually area of life, except for:
In my continued efforts to champion artistic success
In implementing and following a new exercise and diet program – results forthcoming
What disappointments did you experience this past year?
I’m thoroughly disappointed in the hundreds of musicians who come to my websites, and don’t believe in themselves enough to take the next step in their careers with a book, course, or coaching program. I don’t come cheap, but it’s a minimal investment for a lifetime of inspiration and results (i.e., “It’s all my fault, I suck at selling”).
I’m thoroughly disappointed in the young ladies who pass up an opportunity with one of the most desirable bachelors to ever exist (i.e., “It’s all my fault, I suck at dating”).
What was missing from last year as you look back?
Besides the above: Travel, food, fun, and performance were all missing to greater or lesser degrees.
What were the major life-lessons you learned this past year?
You can convince yourself that you can only stretch so far, only to discover that you can stretch much further. My plate is fuller than ever, but I’ve embraced the practice of moving multiple projects forward with great urgency.
Structure is good. Life feels like it’s moving when your calendar is full. You feel like a ship without a rudder when it isn’t.
You don’t rise to the challenge unless there’s a challenge to rise to. Whether it’s publishing daily or taking on an intensive yearlong leadership program, new challenges have presented themselves, causing me to rise higher.
The best book on the topic, without a doubt, is Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever. His book will show you in clear detail how you can set yourself up to have an exceptional, powerful, life-affirming, goal-reaching year. I read it before meeting my mastermind group in Silverthore, CO in winter 2019, and it made it into the top three books I read in 2019.
My book, Start Your Year the Right Way, dives deeper into the various practices I have in my life to ensure I cause completion and set myself up for success each year. There are plenty (but not too many) prompts to guide your reflections and space enough to write down your answers.
You can also hire me as your coach at a premium, and if you wish to explore new possibilities together, get in touch. I don’t respond immediately to most emails but do prioritize potential clients.
I have been consistent in sharing my reflections since 2014. Self-indulgent, perhaps, but if you found this reading valuable, you will find these articles beneficial also:
Remember – completion is caused, not offered. No one can give it to you. You must seek it out and create it yourself. Any memories you continually cycle through in your mind are incomplete. Become present to the impact, and once you’re clear on all the ways it has affected you, declare it complete. You are the most powerful person in your world, and completion is yours to claim.