By Abby Grace
(The Guest Blogging Series: While Natalie is recovering from surgery, her friends have offered to bring you incredible content. Learn more about the author of this post at the end and be sure to leave some love.)
Ok, the biggest holiday of the year is literally DAYS away, so let’s talk about something most small business owners struggle with: taking time away from your inbox.
Hi, I’m Abby Grace, and I used to be legitimately addicted to email. I couldn’t turn it off- I’d check mail on my phone as soon as I woke up each morning, several times throughout the day (in addition to always having Gmail open in a browser window), and then again before I went to sleep (ahem- sound familiar?).
…which meant that I was waking up stressed out and on edge, and I was going to bed thinking about all the items on my to-do list for the next day. I was never able to unplug, and so I was never truly able to REST!
I do not believe that we were created to work 24/7; I believe that there are people and things in life outside of my business that warrant my best attentions and energy! Especially during the holidays, when folks gather from near and far- how are you supposed to playfully-but-not-really argue about politics with Uncle Bill if you’re constantly on your phone, obsessing over emails?
You can’t! So let’s get to it: these are my three BEST tips for managing your inbox over the holidays!
1) Activate an Out-of-Office responder (OoOR) for your email account. Doing so assures the sender that you received their email, and gives them a heads up that your response time will be delayed. I use an OoOR every time I’m out of my office for more than one business day. Not sure how to write one? Feel free to steal mine!
“Hi there! Thanks so much for your email. I’ll be out of the office Friday, December 22 through Monday, January 1. I’ll begin answering emails in the order they were received on Tuesday, January 2nd. I look forward to speaking with you then!”
Optional additional text:
“If your matter requires immediate attention, please [insert instructions- do you want them to email a business partner? Call? Email you back with the word “urgent” in the subject line?] Thank you!”
2) Make sure you’re directing all inquiries to your inbox. I’m the WORST at texting back, returning DMs, and the myriad of other communication channels available these days. Because once the notification alert is gone, there’s nothing to draw my attention back to a particular note- texts and DMs can get buried SO quickly! But if they email me? I’ll see their message every time I log into my inbox, until I’ve attended to it and then archived the email. So to make sure I’m centralizing all my client-based communication in my inbox, I have a keyboard shortcut that I send to anyone who texts or DMs me with business-related questions/inquiries- feel free to swipe this one, too!
“Thank you so much for your note! In order to make sure I don’t miss any further communication, I’d love to have you email me at email@example.com—it helps me make sure nothing gets overlooked!”
3) Take email off your phone. I saved the most scandalous tip for last- you wouldn’t believe the looks I get when I tell other business owners that I don’t keep email on my phone! But because of how easy it was to quickly pull out my phone during off time (like date night, at church, etc.), I was finding myself sucked into tending to non-urgent business during times when I was NOT supposed to working! And that was destroying even the possibility of work/life balance.
So I took it off my phone. And I can honestly say it has ONLY been a good thing! For my business, for my life, for my personal relationships. I’m able to be present when I’m supposed to be present, which means once I’m back in the office, it’s easier for me to be in work-mode.
You can do this! Seriously- even just employing #3 will make an ENORMOUS difference in your ability to unplug and enjoy this season. So here’s to drinking all the eggnog, playing the all Christmas music, and being present with those we love most!
And if your inbox is currently making you feel more like the Grinch than Buddy the Elf, make sure to snag the Email Toolkit– we’ll help you take your inbox game from zero to awesome!
Abby Grace is an international wedding & anniversary photographer for the old-school chic couple in love, based just outside Washington, DC. A Francophile, Hufflepuff, and ballet enthusiast, she’s had the joy of teaching creatives in France and across the US. She’s a communication guru with a passion for talking (degree in PR should tip you off) and wants to help you get out of your inbox, and back to running a business you love, that supports a life you love even more. Her secret weapon is a tube of red lipstick.