Can you keep up with your email? Or are you drowning in those little electronic annoyances?
Does the very idea of your inbox stress you out? Are you building bad karma from all the emails you’ve left to wither and die in your inbox, unread, unloved, and un-replied?
Yoga teachers and yoga studio owners, I love you, but the way you deal with email is a PROBLEM.
I know you don’t keep up with your email. I know many of you don’t even try.
How do I know this? Because I use email to communicate with you, or people just like you, all over the world.
Or at least I try to. But I gotta be honest, you don’t make it easy.
Most yogis I communicate with on our world travels are:
- Drowning in email
- Missing the most important ones
- Ignoring students
- Letting it all get completely out of hand
If I have to…
- Email you three times to get a response
- Wait two weeks for a reply to a simple question
- Give up on you because you just don’t bother to reply at all
…then it’s time to take control of your email.
All this email mishandling is driving me crazy. But it’s not me you should be worried about.
The thing is, you’re probably driving everybody you communicate with a little crazy.
Naming no names (you know who you are), I have seen at least three studio owners’ unread email count at more than 1,000 new emails!!! No wonder they don’t reply for weeks on end (or not at all)!
You do realise how many important emails could be hiding in there, don’t you?
You are probably missing out on:
- New students
- New personal connections
- Deeper bonds with the people in your life
- New partnerships that could benefit you and your students
I want to help you keep up with your email. I REALLY do. But you’ve gotta take action! Today…
8 Tips to Help You Keep Up with Your Email
Handling Email Tip 1: Answer Every Email
Yeah right, you’re thinking, maybe if I had a hundred monkeys and eternity.
I’ll get to the HOW later, but right now, let’s focus on WHY it’s important to answer every email that comes your way.
Answering email is the right thing to do
You have to remember, email is not just an electronic message. There is a real person behind that email who cared enough to reach out to you.
Ignoring that person, whether it’s because you’re too busy or you just don’t want to communicate with them, is just plain rude. Ignoring email is just as bad (and hurtful) as screening calls, ignoring a text message, or not bothering to answer someone who tries to speak to you in person.
Imagine walking away from someone who tries to speak to you in person. You wouldn’t, right? You’re doing the virtual version of that every time you ignore an email.
Answering emails is good for business
Whether you like it or not, you run a business (even if it’s a personal yoga brand). Every time you ignore an email (or don’t answer it for a couple of weeks), you’re sending the message that you are disorganised or that you don’t really care about your customers.
Trust me, I have a long list of studios around the world I’ve never bothered to visit based on how they handle their emails.
Emails You Don’t Have to Answer
There are a few exceptions to the “answer every email” rule. You can ignore any requests from Nigerian princes or anyone asking for your passwords. You can ignore belligerent or stalker(ish) emailers who don’t know when to call it quits.
BTW, if you’re an uber-famous yoga teacher and you can’t respond because you get hundreds of emails a day… I’m not letting you off the hook. See tip #9…
Handling Email Tip 2: Making Time
When I was working in an office, my co-workers were always amazed at my empty inbox. In fact, people still are when they see my inbox these days. I currently have 10 emails in my inbox, and they’ve all been read, answered if needed, and I am working on things related to each of them.
Here are a few techniques I used to slice through the email weeds quickly.
Schedule your email time
Spend 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at the end of the day focussing on email. Ignore your inbox for the rest of the day. During your email times, focus on email. Don’t open Facebook, answer the phone, or do anything else that might distract you.
Read each email only once
This means that once you open it, you need to act on it right away. For each email, do one of these:
- Reply now. Most emails can be handled with a few quick words of reply. Once you’ve read and replied, hit delete, or file it away.
Delegate. Some emails require information from another person. Forward these emails to the person who has the information you need. Copy the sender on the forwarded email, so they know you are handling their query.
Flag it. As a last resort, if you really can’t deal with the email right now, flag it as important (almost all email programmes have a flag or star function) and keep it in your inbox where you won’t forget about it.
Pro tip: If your reply is going to take more than 5 minutes to write, consider making a phone call instead. Calls are time-consuming, but they’ll prevent a further flurry of emails on the same subject, saving you time in the long run.
Handling Email Tip 3: Keep it Short and Sweet
You don’t have to wheel out your Shakespearean quill every time you sit down to write an email. And please, don’t channel Dickens and write like you’re getting paid by the word.
Short emails are more likely to be read and acted on. Long emails are more likely to end up at the bottom of an overflowing inbox. Write the minimum number of words to deal with the subject at hand.
Make it personal
If you’re worried about seeming brusque or impersonal on email, add a line to your email signature that says something like “Sorry if my emails seem short. I’m striving to spend less time typing and more time living. I’m always happy to chat in person when you visit the studio.”
Handling Email Tip 4: Do It Right the First Time
Sometimes, you’ll need to reply to multiple questions in a single email.
Don’t rush it. Take the time to read the original email thoroughly and make sure you respond to every question the first time around. This avoids confusion, avoids driving people crazy when you’ve ignored certain questions, and most importantly, avoids an extended email back-and-forth as they make additional requests for the same info.
Handling Email Tip 5: Be Honest
I know you want to be sweetness and light and everybody’s best friend. I get it. I’m like that too. Sort of.
But in the long run, saying “no” when you mean “no”—instead of saying “maybe later” or “let’s discuss this further”—will go a long way to making your email communications more efficient.
It will also show the other party that you respect them enough to not waste their time with your sweet bullshit. I love studios that say “no, we’re fully booked for this year.” They go into my “keep an eye on this one” folder because I can tell they are good at their job and I want to work with people who are good at their job.
On the flipside, studios who string me along, saying they’d love to have me visit but never quite solidifying our plans, go straight into my “never ever” folder.
Handling Email Tip 6: Don’t Be Too Honest
Avoid engaging in a long email about your personal problems with an emailer. Spilling out your personal life story as a way of excusing your bad email etiquette is not necessary, even if that’s the real reason you’ve been uncommunicative.
A simple “Sorry, things have been really hectic the last few weeks” is much more professional and takes a lot less time to write.
Handling Email Tip 7: Use Formatting
If you have a lot to say in one email, don’t write it in huge run-on paragraphs with long sentences. This isn’t a college essay.
Use bold headings, numbering, and bullet points instead. This is much quicker to write, will keep your thoughts organised, and is easier for your recipient to read and reply to if necessary.
Handling Email Tip 8: If You’re Still Drowning in Email
If you’ve tried all of this and you’re still under an email avalanche, there are a couple of things you can do.
Hide your email address
If you get too many emails, take your personal email address off of your website and social media and stop giving it out. Making people work to contact you weeds out the time-wasters.
People can always try to message you on Facebook or (gasp!) pick up the phone if they really need to be in touch.
Stop sending emails
The more emails you send the more you will get in reply. If you don’t have time, don’t invite more email into your life by sending emails out.
Set up an auto-responder
If you don’t like email and are much more likely to reply on Facebook Messenger or What’s App, then set up an auto-responder on your email address. This will send out an automatic reply to everyone who sends you an email.
You could write something like:
Thanks for your email, but I generally don’t communicate this way. Please message me on Facebook or give me a call at [phone number] if you need something.
And for heaven’s sake, if you go offline for a few weeks, set up an auto-responder telling people you are away and when you will be back!!!
Handling Email Tip #9: Delegate
This one is mostly for studio owners or yoga teachers with a HUGE following.
If you really can’t get the email pile under control, you need help.
Paying an assistant may be out of the question but fortunately, you have a commodity that almost every student wants: yoga. Allow your assistant to attend your class for free each time they perform a certain number of hours handling email for you.
Ideally, you should hire someone you know and who you can trust. After all, this is your brand they are holding in their hands. If you don’t know anyone, put up a sign in the studio or use your social media channels to ask. You’ll be surprised how many people are looking for work experience.
You can also hire a VA (virtual assistant) online who will do a professional job for you for relatively little money.
Whomever you get, set aside time to train them properly. Set expectations, teach them how to use the right tone, and only allow them to reply to emails that require a short, quick answer. They can even file your emails for you, under Complaints, Compliments, Teacher Inquiries etc, so you can scan them every once in a while to keep track of your business.
Bonus Guide: How to Respond to the Most Common Types of Emails
You don’t have to write a novel every time you sit down and hit reply. Here are some tips to handle the most common types of yoga-related emails.
If a student emails you after class to thank you, don’t put that email in an “answer later” pile, thinking you will impart some deep wisdom as soon as you have time to think of some.
Answer with a quick “You’re welcome, glad you enjoyed it!” Your student has taken the time to sit down and thank you for your work—let them know you appreciate them enough to reply to their email.
Emails containing minor complaints can be handled exactly the same way. A quick “Thanks for letting me know, I really appreciate your feedback and I’ll give it some thought,” will more than suffice. You don’t need to mount an email defence against minor student complaints.
For more serious complaints, don’t try to handle them by email. Ask the student to call or come in to discuss the situation. Put the ball back in their court to take the next step.
Emails from students wanting to know class times, prices, and other details about the studio or your schedule should be answered as quickly as possible. If they don’t hear back from you, chances are they won’t bother to come to your class.
One weekend, I emailed a studio asking when another teacher’s workshop started so I could attend. I never heard from them and when I got to the studio the owner said, “Oh, I got your email but didn’t have time to reply.” Most unimpressive. How many people did that owner ignore who would have come to the workshop if she’d replied?
If you or your studio are inundated with questions about scheduling, check your website and your Facebook Page.
Are the answers to these questions correct, up-to-date, and easy to find online? If not, fix this now!
If a teacher emails you to ask about getting a job at your studio, reply quickly and be honest. If you’re not hiring, tell them. If you don’t hire people you don’t know, tell them. If you don’t think their teaching style or their level of experience is appropriate for your studio, tell them.
Yogis tend to have a terrible time saying “no”.
Giving a vague “maybe” when you have no intention of working with that teacher, or not replying at all, makes you look much worse that giving an honest “No, thanks”. Don’t waste other people’s time by putting them on your email back burner. That’s baaaad karma.
That’s it. It will take a little time to get used to your new, improved techniques for handling email overwhelm. Once you get used to it, you’ll wonder how you ever existed under an avalanche of emails.
Do you have more questions about email overwhelm? Ask in the comments below. I promise to get back to you promptly!
♥ Happy adventures in email, Stephen