You’re here because you recognize that your inbox is the biggest time constraint in your business and you want to delegate your email to an assistant.
What makes delegating email different from delegating something like a logo design, or your taxes?
Your inbox is the heartbeat of your venture. It’s where information is transmitted that leads to closed deals and new business. Frequently, the information that is transmitted via email lives only in your brain, so you’re pondering how could anyone else take over your email without being you?
Let me explain how we do it…
You’re ready to delegate email. Here is what we are going to cover:
- Why doing all your email yourself will stunt your growth
- The hand over steps to transfer control of your email to an assistant
- What can go wrong and how to prevent it
- The qualities to look for in an assistant
We’ll start with why this is such a vital step to take if you want to grow your business.
Doing Your Email Yourself Will Stunt Your Growth
Over-checking email wastes 21 minutes per day. On average, professionals check their email 15 times per day, or every 37 minutes. Do most people expect a response within that time frame? No. In fact, only 11% of customers/clients and 8% of coworkers expect a response in less than an hour.
In an article titled: “How to Spend Way Less Time on Email Every Day,” Matt Plummer shares shocking (or not) statistics on how much time we actually spend in our inbox.
The numbers alone are shocking. But we can’t, in good faith, only count the time that we open up our email tab and sort through emails. You probably have email notifications turned on. You probably think about emails you are expecting, or need to send, even when you are not sitting in front of your email inbox.
Email is never finished.
As a result, you might find yourself interrupted by intrusive thoughts about unfinished emails, even when you are trying to focus on something else. Psychologists call this the Zeigarnik Effect.
The Zeigarnik Effect And What It Has To Do With Email
There is a reason why it’s so hard to stop thinking about uncompleted and interrupted tasks. Psychologists refer to this as the Zeigarnik effect, or the tendency to better remember unfinished tasks than completed ones.
“When you start working on something but do not finish it, thoughts of the unfinished work continue to pop into your mind even when you’ve moved on to other things. Such thoughts urge you to go back and finish the thing you have already begun,” says Kendra Sherry.
Now, translate this to your own workflow and ability to prioritize.
Given that email is never finished, and our minds tend to dwell on unfinished tasks, it’s enormously difficult to make meaningful strides in other areas of your business as long as your inbox continues to fill up.
We believe that by handing over your email, you can focus your energy on what matters most. Here’s how to proceed with the hand over steps.
How To Delegate Your Email Inbox To An Assistant
When the time comes to delegate your inbox, we have found the following steps to be most effective in preparing clients to work with their inbox manager:
- Study your current communication style by reviewing your sent emails
- Determine ‘triage’ – the priority each email should have – so you don’t miss any important opportunities, and time wasting emails are kept away from you
- Eliminate all nonessential emails, designate folders and set up filters for common incoming messages
- Create a template library or what we call a ‘knowledge base’, containing procedures and responses for dealing with common emails
- Review draft replies to your emails, and only send them with your approval. Once trust is established and accuracy confirmed, have your assistant reply to emails directly without your involvement
Here’s a quick breakdown of these steps:
Step One: Study your current communication style by reviewing your sent emails
Not sure what your communication style is? Whether or not you have worked to cultivate a communication style, you have one. Together with your assistant, study trends in your communication like:
- Are you more blunt and to the point, or do you seek to build relationships via a more lengthy email style?
- Do you prefer more informal communication, or do you keep things strictly professional?
- Do you conduct a lot of business via email, or do you prefer to move things away from email as soon as possible?
Step Two: Determine ‘triage’ – the priority each email should have – so you don’t miss any important opportunities and time wasting emails are kept away from you
Triage is a means of prioritizing effort where it can have the greatest impact.
The goal here is to spend as little time as possible in your inbox, while still having the greatest impact.
Some of the triage process can be automatic, using folders and filters. You can learn more about recommended folders here. If you don’t already have folders in place, keep in mind there is no one-size-fits-all system. Some recommend a time-barred folder system, others recommend categories.
Bringing in an inbox expert is the surest way to know your emails are being filtered and stored in the most efficient way for your own business and strategy.
The key for this step is to determine, together with your assistant, the subjects and recipients that you will need to address yourself. Everything that remains should be delegated to your assistant.
Step Three: Eliminate All Nonessential Emails
To make the transition to an email assistant smoother, it’s helpful to declutter incoming emails so that your inbox only houses what you (and they) need to see.
We recommend starting with Unroll.me, a free service that lets you see all of your subscription emails and unsubscribe with one click.
Unroll Me also allows you to “roll up” your preferred subscriptions into a once-daily digest. It will also capture all your new subscriptions into an “inbox” where you can decide how you want to receive the messages.
This process should completely eliminate any emails that are not from a real person or are nonessential to you. You’ll be left with an inbox mostly full of messages you either want or need to see.
Step Four: Create a template library or knowledge base, containing procedures and responses for dealing with common emails
One of the easiest ways to automate your communication flow and save your assistant time is by eliminating the need to compose the same email over and over again. Do this well and all the information that is stored in your head is translated to your knowledge base so your assistant can be your ‘clone’.
Applications like Gmail and Outlook allow you to store up to 50 templates at a time within your email interface.
Another option for storing templates is Yesware. This is what we use. It’s an affordable option to add tons of space to your template library. You can also create categories for even better ease of access.
Start to look for common responses, or variations of responses, that you write. Keep a running list of these and create templates that can be easily customized depending on the recipient.
With this library in place, an assistant can easily pull the appropriate response as well as get a crash course on your customer personas.
Step Five: Delegate draft replies to your emails, but only send them with your approval. Once trust is established and accuracy confirmed, have your assistant reply to emails directly without your involvement
The last step is the most straightforward — and the most life-changing!
Before you completely hand over the reigns to your inbox, your assistant should show you their draft email replies to your messages so you can tweak and correct, or add any missing or incorrect information.
Over time, and with the right assistant, you should feel confident that your assistant has the ability to reply to emails without your approval or input (on matters that do not require your approval or input.)
In our experience taking over inboxes for clients, we find it takes about one week of writing drafts and collecting feedback, before the client approves us to send email replies directly.
No matter how much you prepare, however, there are still missteps that can result in permanent damage to your business and relationships. So what can go wrong, and how do you avoid it?
What Can Go Wrong When You Delegate Email?
The purpose of this article is not to scare you out of delegating your inbox. But it’s important to beware of common pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Here are some common missteps, and the antidotes to save your inbox.
Mistake Number 1: Micromanaging So Much That You Waste Even More Time
We’ve all been there.
It’s normal, and frankly would be concerning if you didn’t have a vested interest in every single facet of your business. You built it, after all.
The misstep comes when, because you are so worried something will go wrong, you spend more time micromanaging your assistant than you did originally just handling your email by yourself.
Asking to proofread every email that goes out, and then re-writing it how you think it should be written, means you spend twice as much time on an email than you would have without an assistant.
Be sure you are ready to delegate your email and are prepared to let go. You need to be able to trust your assistant to do as good, if not better, a job than you do, but that can’t happen if you don’t relinquish control. That also means you don’t jump in and attempt to answer your emails before your assistant does!
Mistake Number 2: Handing Over Email Without Knowing What Your Expectations Are
There are tiers of roles – and candidates – and you should know exactly what you want handled before you start looking.
You might only want someone you can forward emails to who will handle basic requests. You might want someone to take over all your email so you never have to go into your inbox ever again.
Many of our clients consider their inbox managers to be an extension of themselves, and as a result, get their life back.
How much of your email you want to delegate must be decided before you bring on the individual. Without clear expectations, your assistant will be set up to fail, not knowing the role they are supposed to assume in your workflow.
Mistake Number 3: Hiring An Assistant Too Quickly
The accessibility of virtual assistants does not mean that all virtual assistants are created equal. You can go on a VA job site and find one the same day you decide you’re ready to hand over your email, but there’s a slim chance this would benefit your business.
Email assistants need to have specialized skills and training specific to managing an inbox. They also need top written communication skills, attention to detail and the capability to understand the big picture of how your business works, so they are capable of knowing how best to handle each email that comes in.
Here at InboxDone.com we carefully select American-based, college-educated, top-of-their-class communicators. Then we train them to become email optimization wizards, ready to take on even the most demanding inboxes.
Here’s what we look for when we bring on our inbox managers…
What Skills To Look For In An Email Assistant
If you’re looking for an in-depth hiring guide, we’ve created this resource: How To Hire, Test And Train A Virtual Assistant To Handle Your Email.
In the meantime, here are four soft skills to look for in your recruiting process.
Skill Number 1: Patience
We’ve found that candidates who do not respect our thorough hiring process usually want a short-term gig or a quick way to make money. This mindset could translate over to their work with our clients and goes directly against our business model of building a long-term relationship with each new hire.
Look for candidates who are patient during the hiring and training process as a signal that they have a vested interest in doing the job well.
Skill Number 2: Autonomous and Proactive Thinking
This is one of the most important things to look for. Your candidate should be able to demonstrate, either specifically on the application or during the interview and testing process, that they know how to take initiative and prioritize their tasks based on their understanding of your business. They should be able to see an email and understand where that email fits into the big picture.
Email managers should be able to work without needing hand-holding for every decision and even come up with solutions to problems that are better than your own ideas.
Skill Number 3: Adaptable
The best way to gauge adaptability is by taking notice of employment history. Has the nature of a candidate’s work changed along the way, or is it mostly in the same field? A more diverse breadth of work experience means they were able to adapt to different work environments and different responsibilities. This is key for an email virtual assistant because your inbox is a very dynamic environment.
Skill Number 4: Attention to Detail
One of the best ways to get a sense for a candidate’s attention to detail is by noticing their spelling. It’s simple, but a perfectly spelled application means they went over it with a fine tooth comb to check for mistakes. That is the kind of candidate you want handling your email.
We Can Do All Of This For You
If you are ready to delegate your email but you don’t want to go through the hiring, testing, training and vetting process, we can help.
At InboxDone.com, our Inbox Managers are top-of-their-class communicators, well vetted, and are ready to handle one (or all) of the inboxes in your company for a set monthly fee. You can delegate as much of your email to us as you want to.
If you’d like to work with an assistant who specializes in email management so you can get back to growing your business, we are currently accepting new clients.
You can book a discovery call to learn more.