I get a healthy amount of email during the day, and it’s important to me to spend a reasonable amount of time over the course of the work week engaged in conversation with people. As much as email has gotten a bad wrap as a time suck, I still find it to be a valuable tool for creating connection in a time where disconnection is the default state (more on this another time).
In addition to email, there are several other workstreams that I keep up with: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Text, Asana, ClickUp, Circle, Twitter, Slack, etc.
The simple act of just not forgetting to check in one of these communication channels can start to feel overwhelming!
So, it’s a delicate balancing act.
Staying plugged in but not getting distracted or off track with your most meaningful work.
And not getting overwhelmed by all the context switching, which, if I’m not following good hygiene, can leave me feeling a bit frazzled.
In the past, I’ve had my assistant help me manage this process, but over the past couple of years, I’ve slowly moved towards a system of personal responsibility and control where I can handle all of this myself within 30 minutes a day, without sacrificing my connection with others (which is what started to happen when I outsourced these routines).
I also find my creativity has more juice when I stay closer to these channels.
I’ve created a system that allows me to achieve inbox zero across all these workstreams daily, leaving me feeling peaceful, calm, and satisfied.
Here are my simple steps for achieving a daily sense of calm in my work email and tasks:
1. Don’t check email or social media in the morning. I’ll be honest. This one is the hardest for me, as I’m wired to want to know what’s been happening while I’ve been sleeping. But I’ve found if I can resist the temptation by reminding myself that I have time planned on the calendar for reviewing this, then I can maintain my morning peace for a few critical hours. This allows me to meditate and get a few of my most important things done before being hit with new information that could throw off my focus.
2. The Morning Triage: I use Sunsama as my focused “mission control” system where all my tasks and emails are organized. I can view my work as a daily Kanban View and implement time-blocking with synchronization to my Google Calendar.
Once I’ve completed my first morning focus block, this is when I’ll check some of my inboxes for the first time by following a daily recurring checklist I call “Morning Triage”. I have this scheduled for 20 minutes, but as long as I’ve kept up with things from the previous day, I can usually breeze through this process within 5 minutes.
Following a loose GTD Structure, my goal is to work through each of the inboxes and process using the following logic:
- Can I reply in a minute or less to get something to done? In this case, I’ll do it immediately. This keeps communication from piling up, collaborative tasks moving along, and communicates responsiveness and that I value other’s time and needs.
- Am I waiting on a reply from someone? If it’s critical to hear back to keep my own work moving forward, I mark that as a task in my Kanban view for the day I plan to follow up. This way, I can prioritize this with my other work for the day while not having to hold this information in my head. I clear it from my inbox, so it doesn’t continue to clutter things up.
- Does the email or message require more thought to process? If upon scanning, it becomes clear that it’s not urgent or time sensitive to deal with it today, I’ll divert my eyes as not to take in more info, and add the message to my task system. This will be prioritized at the end of the day for a response tomorrow, or to circle back to if I’ve completed all my previously scheduled work for the day. If it’s simply information, it gets a #readitlater tag, as these are generally looked at last only if I have some solid margin in my schedule. If it’s an actionable item, it gets it’s own task in Sunsama using actionable language for the headline (i.e. “reply to Ry about the I See You, King Newsletter Plan”)
- Is it junk or spam? Trash it immediately, mark as spam
- Is it a newsletter? Take 10 seconds to add a filter in Gmail to send it to Mailbrew (my system for organizing the many newsletters I’m subscribed to so it all goes into one single email per day for leisurely reading).
- Within my email inboxes, I only use one folder, “Archive”. This keeps things clean. Messages are either in my inbox or archived, where I can use the built-in search features if I need to recall something. Also – because I use Sunsama to process my messages when I create a task from an email, it automatically archives that email while maintaining a link back to it. This is incredible for focus because no searching is involved when ready to tackle an email-based task. I don’t have to worry about getting distracted by seeing something new in my inbox while trying to work on something specific.
3. Stay out of these tools while doing focused work. Once I’ve completed my morning triage and know no fires are burning, I’ve earned the right to put them aside for most of the day. Sunsama helps me create a mission control with direct links to each of the tasks I’m tracking in my client’s project management systems, and any emails driving focus tasks for the day. I close all my tabs, put my phone on “Do Not Disturb”, and get to work! Suppose I need to go hunt for something in Gmail. I use a chrome extension called Inbox When Ready that allows me to search without seeing any new emails that have come in to my inbox that have the potential to distract me.
4. Daily Closing Rituals. Towards the end of the day, once I’ve completed my most important work, I’ll follow a 2-step process that will leave me feeling complete
I’ll complete my second Daily Triage, which is a bit more extensive than the first. That being said, I an almost always finish this within 30 minutes:
I then complete a daily shutdown ritual where I review what I’ve completed for the day and prioritize my tasks for tomorrow by time-blocking them onto my calendar. In this way, I always know exactly what the priorities are when I get started in the morning without using my most precious morning energy to process these decisions.
I’ll also do a weekly review on Sundays to look at the big picture weekly and quarterly objectives. By following this system, I can cut through the majority of the overwhelm and keep goals moving forward and in flow.
Is it a perfect system?
Absolutely not. I’m constantly refining and adjusting while looking for ways to work with my psychological biases.
But it’s a pretty simple system that helps me feel connected to my work and the people I serve without sacrificing too much energy and bandwidth.
May you find your own version of calm within your work day.
Sunsama for creating a Mission Control across all various client workstreams.
Mailbrew for bringing calm to newsletters and email subscriptions.
Here’s What I Want to Share This Week:
1. CTC Circle member Billy Broas delivered earlier this week with his 5 Lightbulbs Framework Workshop
Somehow he managed to bake advanced marketing concepts (a la Breakthrough Advertising) into deceptively simple frameworks that are instantly practical the moment you learn them.
In 90ish mins, Billy guided us through:
- How to use the “lightbulbs” to create messaging maps for your client
- The Kanban Method for storing and updating all those copy hooks
- Why having a “shared language” across marketing teams can reduce friction and increase the speed between “we need this” and “oh man, did we ever get it”
- How the “5 Lightbulbs” operate in the wild (with swipe from Ramit Sethi, Onnit, and other marketing powerhouses
- How to implement the light bulbs across the most common course marketing assets (ie. ads, sales pages, emails, etc.)
The replay is waiting for you inside CTC Circle.
And of course, if you’re not yet a member, you can activate your membership for just $97/mo and get immediate access to Billy’s session and 7+ programs, weekly coaching calls, and a host of other collab and community building opps.
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Explore CTC Circle, our monthly membership for copywriters, coaches, course creators, and entrepreneurs in the daily trenches of building high-performing launches.
2. Writing an application funnel? Application Funnel Amplifiers is a straight-to-the-point, implementation based program where we’ll be going over the nitty gritty nuance of exactly what it takes to build out a high-performing application funnel. Available monday in CTC Circle.
3. Our very own CTC Circle Mentor Matt Brown recently did a podcast interview on aligned marketing with the Queen of Quiz Funnels, Chanti Zak. This is not your typical marketing interview. For instance, you’ll learn how marketing can be a little like mushroom foraging, and why Matt credits intentional relaxation as a part of his business success.
Who We are Celebrating This Week: Sew Heidi
Before launching Successful Fashion Designer, Heidi started her career as a fashion designer in 2004 with her own brand. After experiencing burnout, she found her way into the freelancing world, which she found to be a life-changing decision.
Now Heidi’s sole focus is on helping burnt-out fashion designers to ditch the Exhausted Employee rat race and become Successful Fashion Freelancers.
Outside of her work, Heidi lives on the side of a mountain, quite literally, outside of Denver, CO, and can be found hitting the hiking trails multiple times a week #lifegoals
This Week’s Curiosities :
The Daily Planner for Busy Professionals (link)
I’m so high on this app right now.
In fact, I can’t stop raving about it, which is rare for me. Organize everything you need to do today in one place. Tasks, meetings, emails, you name it.
In my fractional CMO work, I tend to have to dip in and out of my client’s project management systems. This tends to cause me a bit of anxiety because I feel like I have to check way too many places, and it’s hard to get an overall picture of my workload in any given week. Until Sunsama.
One single place to view all your tasks across multiple Asana, ClickUp, Trello, Todoist, and email accounts. Enough said.
The All-In-One Tool for Thinking and Learning (link)
I’m taking in a lot of Sanskrit lately, and I’ve been looking for a way to improve my recall and retention. There’s been no shortage of networked-thought note-taking apps released over the past year.
Still, the killer feature that I love about Remnote is its ability to magically create flashcards out of your notes.
Using simple keyboard shortcuts, you can create flashcards as you learn without adding friction to the note-taking experience.
RemNote uses a Spaced Repetition Algorithm that allows you to maximize your learning efficiency.
More Face Time Without More Live Calls (Link)
Use ZipMessage to keep a communication line open with clients without solely relying on Zoom calls and email.
I came across this tool because I was looking for an async video platform to power a coffee-chat bot I created for CTC Circle.
Essentially, when someone comments on a post in Circle, our bot will pair two members and start a video/audio/text thread on their behalf using this tool.
Pretty cool! We are still in the early phase of using it, so time will tell how our members like it. In my experience often times people get stalled out trying to coordinate calendars for a zoom connection call. With a tool like ZipMessage, you can get the conversation started right away.
A Fundamentally Different Calendar Experience (Link)
I’ve been using SavvyCal as my personal scheduling tool for the past year, and I’ve got to say, it’s really grown on me. In addition, I got a clever idea from Jay Clouse on how to use it to power my new newsletter sponsorship program.
I just launched it quietly in last week’s issue of the chest.
The setup using SavvyCal allows for frictionless coordination of ad slot placement, including payment and the capturing of ad copy and any associated links.
Even if you aren’t interested in being a sponsor, the workflow might be worth a look.
Connections, Affections and Astral Coincidences
This song powered the writing of this issue of the chest. There’s something special about it.
“Feeling good about yourself doesn’t make you conceited; as your sense of worth grows, there’s actually less need to impress others.” – Rick Hanson, Hardwiring Happiness
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