Ever since I opened Deerwood Realty, my email inbox has been an issue. I’m not sure why. Currently, I’m at 5,341 emails in my inbox, with 1,604 of them unread. My personal email is a little better, 4,917 with 1719 unread. If we add both inboxes I have more than 10,000 emails! This is too much! I’m going to try to figure out what went wrong with the history of email, because I can remember a time when I had no emails in my inbox, and anything that was in my email I filed.
Back in the mid 90’s email was a pretty cool new thing. An email was something you could send to your family and friends and business people that was like a piece of mail, but it was sent electronically. People born in the 00’s are probably laughing at me right now, but there was a time when an email address was a status symbol, because a lot of people didn’t even have internet service.
Do you remember Outlook? I know it’s still around in big offices, but back in the day, everyone had outlook, and you had to set it up on your computer. That would have been a desktop computer because there weren’t any phones that had email on them. One of the features you would have wanted to ask for a new computer purchase is “does this have outlook installed?”
That worked fine for me. There was no urgency associated with email back then. If you wanted to get in touch with someone immediately, you would call them and leave a voicemail. Also, no one was even sure if email was legal or not.
My email inbox first changed when most went to web based email. With web based email, you could look at your email without having to use an external program like outlook. The rate of email I was getting was increasing more and more. Instead of just a receipt for an online purchase, I started getting newsletter after newsletter. And it’s easy to see why. Emails don’t cost anything, so marketers were happy to start flooding inboxes with offers.
Things got out of hand for me when I got a smartphone. Now, I could check my email at all hours of the day and night and I didn’t even have to go to my computer. Sure, it was hard to type out an email on the small buttons of the phone, but it was still better than the desktop computer. There were two big downsides.
- With my email now available on my phone, I was on call at work 24/7
- There really wasn’t a good way to file emails anymore. You couldn’t easily put them in folders or even delete them like you would have in an inbox
For me, it’s gotten to the point where I can’t stand email. When I look at my inbox in the morning it makes me sick. In 2017, I spent two weeks in January getting my work email to zero only to have it be over 5,000 today. I’ve read many guides to stop the email madness, I’ve seen many apps, but there isn’t anything that looks like it will work for me.
Real Estate Related Email
In some ways, I think real estate related email is the toughest to deal with. As an example, when I schedule a showing on a property, that results in about 4 emails. If I schedule 4 showings, that is 16 emails, and I haven’t even been to the property yet. If I use a document signing service, that’s another 4 guaranteed emails, two on sending and two emails to tell me that the person has signed the document. If I buy something for the business, that is another 4 emails. One to confirm my order, one to tell me it is on its way, one that says what I used to pay for it, and one to say it has been delivered. In just about 10 minutes I can have as many as 40 emails in my inbox!
What happens if I have to work with another agent on a deal? Well, that is going to be at least two emails for every one email I send. What happens if someone contacts me by email that they want to see a house, or wants to cancel an appointment, or want to sell their home? If I don’t answer in a timely response, that is a potential lost sale. That’s not great. My job is to list and sell houses, and while email is a part of that, it’s certainly not the most important thing.
What can I do?
I’ve decided to make a few changes to my email situation. Right now, it’s pretty much untenable.
- I will check email only 3 times a day. From now on, I will check once in the morning, once at noon, and once in the early evening. I am not sure how many emails I get that are actually time sensitive anymore. If an agent or a client needs something immediately, they text or call me. I’m pretty sure my other business friends have things set up like this as well. We all sort of know that if something is emailed, you get about 24 hours before you have to respond.
- I will turn email notifications on my phone off. Have you ever had a moment of concentration while working only to have a stupid ding go off in another cubicle? How annoying is that? Once we lose our ability to concentrate, we’re done.
- I will be more aggressive with the delete button. It’s no longer acceptable to mark something as read. I need to do more. My email page gets filled up so fast in one day that it’s almost impossible to scroll back 3 and 4 pages looking for that one email to respond to.
- I will try to file emails. I have a huge filing system for emails right now. And, when you read experts, they say that now there is no need for folders because you could just search for an email and it will come back. I don’t actually believe this, from experience. I’ve tried searching for an email quite a few times only to not find it. When it’s in a labeled folder, I can find it anytime.
- When I write emails, I will think of them as a text message. Who wants to read an email that is 1,000 words? I don’t. If someone sent me one I’d be done within the first paragraph. Anytime I need to discuss something with someone and it’s going to take some time, I am just going to call. It’s much faster.
- I will no longer feel guilty that I haven’t checked my email every 5 minutes all day long. The fear I have is that I will miss out on a home listing or an opportunity to be a buyer’s agent because research says that if you don’t contact a lead within the first 5 minutes of getting it, the lead will move on. I’m done with that worry. If a potential buyer or seller needs to hear back from me within 5 minutes to use my services, they need a different real estate agent. I will respond to all emails. I’m just not going to be bound by checking and responding every 5 minutes throughout the day.
- I will close my email inbox tab on my computer. This is something that I should have done a long time ago. With Gmail, I always have a tab open for my email. So when a new email comes in, I see the number change and I immediately go to read the email. This kills productivity and concentration. While responding to email is definitely a part of my job as a real estate agent, it isn’t my only job. Playing email tennis with someone who is stuck at their desk all day is not what I feel like I was born to do. From now on, my email tennis players are going to have to find someone else.
My first effort on the new email plan started this morning. I managed to get a ton of work done between 9 and noon because I wasn’t busy checking my email every 5 minutes. I’ve yet to get started on the email inbox cleanup. It will be interesting to see how that goes. In the past, I noticed that if an email is older, it kind of loses its importance in my inbox. For example something I get from a newsletter isn’t likely to be read 4 days after I get it.
What are some of the things that you’ve learned about your email practices? Are there others out there who have finally had enough and are going to do something about it, or am I the only one? Let me know in the comments section. I’d be interested to read what you’ve come up with.