I spent the bulk of my first year in business as a solopreneur. I like to reflect back on that time as “the simple days” – a small number of clients, low overhead and an email inbox that typically saw just a few dozen messages each day.
Entering my second year, as interest in my services spiked, I knew it was time to build a team and crank things into gear. In the following months, both my team and client base more than tripled in size – and as expected, so did my email volume. My daily double-digit inbox totals became a thing of the past, and I felt myself sinking into an email abyss.
Emails, which were originally adopted by businesses to accelerate communication, were now disrupting my daily productivity.
The problem persisted for months until one fall morning. While I was browsing through my cluttered inbox on my phone in a New York City coffee shop, I overheard a pair of balding men in suits discussing strategies for dealing with email overflow. Needless to say, they had my attention. The older of the two blurted out the name of the system that forever changed the way I manage emails: The 30-Second Rule.
The rule breaks down into four core principles:
If the email doesn’t deserve a response, ignore it. As your business grows, so will your influx of spam, scams and robotic sales pitches. You should quickly identify and dismiss those types of messages.
If the email warrants a response, and you can do so in 30-seconds or less, then do it. By promptly addressing these emails, you can prevent your unread messages from building up throughout the day without becoming distracted from your tasks at hand.
If the email warrants a response, and you can’t complete it in 30-seconds or less – but an employee is fully capable of addressing it – delegate it. As a hands-on founder, this was the hardest principle to adjust to. Once I allowed myself to loosen my grip and trust my team, not only did it restore much of my productivity, but it helped my employees further develop their abilities and problem solving skills.
If the email warrants a response, and you can’t complete it in 30-seconds or less – and you are the only person fully capable of addressing it – flag it. Once you are available go back into your inbox, go through those flagged emails and put the necessary thought into each response.
Since implementing The 30-Second Rule, my productivity is back to where it was during my early days of entrepreneurship. It might not be a good fit for every business owner, but for those caught sinking in a sea of emails, it can be a true lifesaver.
Brian Hart is the founder and president of Flackable, a national financial public relations and digital marketing agency. Learn more at www.flackable.com.