How to Deal with Too Much Email

Like many people, I get way too much email. You probably do, too. Until recently, I didn’t have a good system for dealing with my inbox volume, which was nearly 500 messages per day. That’s nearly one every waking minute!

I’ve tried in the past to use the “batching” technique and only check emails every so often, but I found that this just leads to email procrastination, while important messages go unanswered (for further thoughts on my attempts to prioritize email, read “The Urgent vs. Important Matrix”).

A CEO friend of mine emailed recently asking for my best tips for dealing with too much email, and below are the tips I shared with him. I continue to struggle with email overload, but here are a few things that have worked for me to lighten the load a bit.

Push as much to the phone as possible

I know this is counter-intutitive, but when you’re drowning in email, it helps. I train all my employees and folks I work with outside the company that if you can wait 1-2 days for a response or it’s just an FYI, email is OK. Anything more urgent than that should be communicated by phone.

This way, there’s nothing urgent in your inbox and you can put it aside to get work done. Urgent things interrupt you with a ringing phone and you can deal with them. You’ll also find that people tend to solve their own problems when they know that they’d have to speak to the boss live (oh the horror) instead of just dropping an email. This is probably my best hack for dealing with too much email.

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Thailand Won’t Make You Happy

Bill and Michaella Cozumel

For many aspiring entrepreneurs (especially readers of Tim Ferriss’s 4HWW), the “digital nomad” lifestyle is the holy grail. And it sounds great – globetrotting, living on a beach in Thailand, working a few hours a day from your laptop, running your business through a 4G modem. And I must admit that I spent a few years of my life trying to do the same thing. But there’s one thing I’m finding out as I mature as an entrepreneur and a human being – our digital nomad culture often focuses too much on building a lifestyle, rather than a life.

Yes, Thailand is gorgeous. It’s an incredible spot for a vacation, it’s comparatively cheap when you earn in USD, and you can post pictures on Facebook that will make all your friends ultra jealous. But for most, Thailand isn’t a permanent lifestyle – you’re going to land in Bangkok, go sit on a beach, and two weeks later you’re going to realize that you’re still you. All your challenges, your aspirations, your demons – your life is sitting right there next to you on that beach.

Hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy

Hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy

I think as an entrepreneurial community, we are selling people a dream that’s partially hollow. “You too can create an affiliate website and then move abroad and be happy forever! Just buy my e-book…” And for sure, the digital nomad lifestyle is FUN! A lot of fun. Thailand is fun. Globetrotting is fun. But I think it’s about time for some real talk about the difference between fun and happiness. As my friend Dave Craige says, “Happiness and contentment do not come from external things like parties and beaches. They come from the inside.”

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Shipping is Your Best Customer Touch Point

Verizon-Galaxy-Unboxing

Lots has been written about how e-commerce is taking over traditional retail and that all commerce is moving online. But the truth is, as an e-commerce retailer, you’re inherently at a disadvantage against all the stores at your local mall. They have something you’ll never have – a tactile, real-world product experience. Walk into Nordstroms and you can touch, feel, and try on the merchandise. You speak with a friendly sales person. All of this comes together to create a cohesive, high-fidelity shopping experience. You don’t have any of these advantages online.

There are plenty of ways to improve your customer experience as an online retailer, but nothing touches your customer quite as strongly as the experience they have when they first open their shipping box and find the products they ordered inside. Is there a better feeling in the world? You research a purchase, order it online, and wait days (or weeks) for it to arrive. You track the package online. You wait by the door for the UPS guy.

Most online stores neglect the first (and usually only) physical interaction they have with the customer – their shipping and unboxing experience.

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Entrepreneurship, Skydiving, and Inertia

The hardest part of skydiving is jumping out of the airplane

How is entrepreneurship like skydiving? As they say, the hardest part of skydiving is jumping out of the airplane. I think entrepreneurship is the same way.

I believe that the key to success in life is overcoming your fears and eliminating the excuses that keep you in your comfort zone. Action almost always brings more fulfillment than the status quo. “Ready Fire Aim” is an expression of that ethos. I also believe it’s very applicable to entrepreneurs thinking of starting a company – the starting is often the hardest part.

Think of all the “armchair entrepreneurs” in the world – everyone has an idea. And yet nobody executes. There always seems to be a reason to delay actually starting an entrepreneurial venture. I don’t have enough startup capital. I need to refine my idea a little more. I should save some more money first. I need to finish college first. I don’t know if anyone will use it. There are one thousand and one excuses for putting off starting until tomorrow.

So why do we do this to ourselves? What is it about human nature that makes us manufacture endless justifications for inaction? I want to mention two authors who’ve written about it specifically, one classic and one contemporary.

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The Ferriss Experiment – 4 Hour Fact or Fiction?

Tim Ferriss doing kettlebells

Many of you are familiar with Tim Ferriss, author of the excellent “4-Hour Work Week“. Tim is a personal hero of mine (one of his productivity tips is mentioned previously in my post “The Urgent vs. Important Matrix“) so naturally I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of his sophomore effort “The 4-Hour Body“. The new book promises to be “An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman” – a bold claim indeed.

Tim has written about fitness before, posting two articles with similarly outrageous headlines on his blog – one called From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs of Muscle in 4 Weeks and another titled How to Lose 20lbs of Fat in 30 Days – Without Doing Any Exercise. These two posts together give us a glimpse of the principles Tim fleshes out in “The 4-Hour Body”. Is it really possible that Tim has cracked the code on fitness? One year ago, I decided to find out by combining Tim’s published writings into a comprehensive fitness plan and measuring my results. My goal – to determine whether Tim’s methods actually work in real life. This is what I discovered.

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