The Email Diet Is Working

Posted on by Frank Haywood

It’s a bit of a surprise for me, but after backing away from email I’ve found that I really don’t need it that much. In fact it looks like email needs me more than I need it.

In case you missed it, I’m doing a bit of an experiment in low-information “diets”, and I thought the first to go would be email. I know I can’t do away with it completely, but I certainly don’t need to check it every day, and definitely not multiple times a day.

I’ve never realised this, but when I send an email, I’m fairly relaxed about when I get an answer to it as long as I get one eventually. Sometimes. Usually.

It seems I’m even more laid back about it than I thought I’d be.

But some (just a few) other people seem to get a little bit irate when they don’t get an answer from me straight away. Most people are fine if I leave it a few days before answering, but I’ve found that some people are a bit uptight about it.

Oh well…

This is I suppose, a good example of the fact that we all live in our own little universes, and all we’re really interested in is ourselves. I’ll qualify that at a later date, but if you want to read more about this concept go get yourself a copy of Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People” which I’m re-reading at the moment.

(This is turning into a bit of a ramble, but there’s two books that I would say have been important to me and my business. One is mentioned above, and the other is Robert Cialdini’s “Influence”. You should definitely get both of the above, and if you take the information inside them to heart, it will do wonders both for your life and business.

Back to email…)

So if I’m not missing email that much at the moment, I think it’s time for stage 2.

Stage 1 was to only check email 3 times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and only spend 15 minutes reading email, and 60 minutes to reply. I should say that if I need to send an email now, I’ll do that, I won’t wait until one of my “checking” days.

So I’m now at the end of week 2, and also the end of stage 1. So far, so good.

Now it’s time to trim that back to Mondays and Fridays starting this week.  If that works out – and I’m now very confident it will – I’ll just move to email on Mondays only. Which will mean it will be faster to get hold of me either by snail mail or via the support desk.

http://www.vendiva.com/support/

The result of this move away from email is I feel much more focussed now and I also feel more productive. I’m keeping an eye on it all as I don’t want something else to replace email and fill the time I’ve gained back.

-Frank Haywood


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3 Comments

  1. Hi Frank,
    Glad to see this is working for you. You seem a lot less stressed and back on top of your game. I am envious of your business model that allows you to do this. I spent lots of time giving free advice to people that has reached dead ends, are frustrated and at the end of their tether. They all seem expect instant replies. Still as Dale Carnegie preaches you have to make each person feel respected and important, so I do not suppose I have the luxury of leaving them waiting for a week before I answer, I would just loose that potential sale that would come a little bit down the line. I am following your little experiment with interest and will wait for the next update. Best wishes
    Gareth

  2. I for one am wondering how it is that you get people to actually use your support software.

    As a proud owner of your support software, I am frustrated that despite I put the support link in the bottom of every email and at the bottom of every page, 90% of the people contact me via email with questions instead of using the support center.

    Like Gareth, I spend for too much time dealing with idle emails. Although I am a people person by nature, and honestly I DO care about people and enjoy helping others…. but I must find a balance, because some days I spend as much time replying to emails as I do with my family. :^0

  3. Frank Haywood says:

    Gareth:

    There’s another word for advice, and that’s consultancy. I think people may be treating you as an unpaid consultant, and that’s not on is it?

    If you continue doing it, you’ll find that the questions never stop. That’s because some people are too scared (or more likely too trained) to think for themselves. With these people, if they have someone to turn to ask them what to do at every step of the way, then that’s what they’ll do.

    All you’re doing by pandering to this is making them worse.

    The bright side of this is, if you get the same questions being asked, or good questions that you think aren’t asked enough, then you can write up a standard answer. Or better still, accompany it with a video.

    If you then put these on your blog, you’ll start to get traffic and good customers will start to gather around you, and you’ll get asked more questions, which when you stop to think about it is really just market research for you.

    Eventually, you’ll end up with a complete product, or at the very least a product idea.

    As for instant replies, you can leave it a while before you reply. What’s the worst thing that will happen?

    Seriously? :-)

    If you’ve sold them something and they’re unhappy with their purchase, they’ll tell you and you can refund them. Some people will be unhappy no matter what you do, I’ve seen this myself, so don’t feel bad about it.

    Example: Just last week someone raised a ticket because they couldn’t get SmartDD LITE to work on Bluehost. Now I know that SmartDD installations are working on Bluehost accounts because I’ve seen a few. I don’t know if Bluehost have changed things, or exactly what had happened, but this person couldn’t get it to work properly. They weren’t a customer of mine, they’d purchased from a reseller.

    After going through a few questions and answers and seeming to get nowhere, I asked if Paul Freedman, the SmartDD developer could take a look at the installation to see what the problem was. A pretty good (and rare) offer I thought, and virtually guaranteed to get it all up and running.

    The reply back was that they didn’t want anyone all over their web account, and that Bluehost had said they should only let us do that if it was the last resort, and that why couldn’t we just release a script that works…

    So I politely wrote back and withdrew the offer, pointing out that they were expecting unpaid support from us for a product that we’d received no payment from them for, and that the problem was with the Bluehost hosting using non-standard security and warning settings (as far as we could tell without seeing it for ourselves). As Bluehost was the business they were paying, they could get Bluehost to sort it out.

    I’ve yet to receive a reply.

    My point is as above. It doesn’t matter what you do for some people, they will whine and expect more of you. If they do that, just withdraw. There are lots of other more sensible, more reasonable people in the world, and those are the ones you want to deal with.

    If someone really wants to buy a product or service from you, then they will.

    By using the questions you’re asked as the basis for blog posts, you’ll start to see search traffic from all sorts of interesting key words and phrases. And when you get asked the same question again, you can just refer them to the blog post where you’ve answered the question.

    This is a bit like using the Frequently Asked Questions and Standard Responses functionality of Ticket Desk Pro (which is still a godsend).

    Which leads me onto…

    John:

    The best way is to ask people to raise a support ticket so that it can be handled properly. I find that if I explain to people that I don’t check my email very often and that it was just by chance I spotted theirs, then that’s usually enough reason for them to see the light.

    And I completely sympathise on the “idle emails” front. I spent so much time on email last year I could cry when I think of the lost opportunities in terms of product creation and other productive time which I frittered away and I’ll never see back.

    Hmm… When I put it that way it’s a bit scary isn’t it? We all only get so much time, and it’s what we do with that’s important.

    So you have to ask yourself, what’s more important?

    Helping an individual for no reward, or helping lots of people by creating a good general answer which you post on your blog? And gradually working towards a product that answers that and many more questions, and making some money from it when it’s done.

    I think the latter would definitely give you more family time (and money in your pocket), but it’s almost a selfish discipline you need to adopt, and you might find yourself having to work through a “guilt barrier” to get there.

    BTW, I still feel the pressure to spend even more time with the family, but I think I have a good balance at the moment. And I’ve learned to be quickly productive.

    For instance I did what I thought was the final video for the Nickel Script last night (one more to do after I read my email), and it only took me an hour to do an 18 minute video, that’s with thinking time beforehand and editing time afterwards.

    Hmm… I might write a blog post about being quickly productive. ;-)

    -Frank

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