Manage Emails

Would you like to get your email inbox down to zero by the end of each day? I didn’t know such a thing was possible. You may wonder – what magic is this?

I am #Tall Tartan Talks … and I have started reading a non-fiction business book called Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott.

One particular chapter which struck me immediately was about managing your emails. His strategies were revolutionary for me. This blog post is a review of that chapter.

I *was* one of those people who had over 200 emails in each of my three inboxes. I sorted them occasionally. Inevitably, if I include my smartphone, I was prone to checking them far too often. Always scrolling through social media. Just like you.

Cluttered inbox

I starred or flagged some important or urgent emails for easy reference, but my inbox was becoming unmanageable. My professional email, annie@proofnow.co.uk was the fullest. My personal gmail account wasn’t much better.

Then, I found Ninja Email Processing, the chapter where Graham says, “Be a Ninja – take a ruthless approach to emails!” Now I adopt his strategy daily.

Interested? This is how you do it.

Reduce your inbox to zero daily

The bare bones of how to get started are:

  1. Open emails
  2. Create three new files: Action, Read, Waiting
  3. Scan the first couple of lines of each email. If it needs to be dealt with immediately, move into Action. If it isn’t important, move to Read. If you are waiting for someone else to action, move to Waiting.

I used to look at my growing email notifications, groan inwardly, feel fear and overwhelm, avoid, then stress about what might be in my inbox. When I was waiting for a particular email from a client, I would pause a job whenever a notification sounded, whether that job was proofreading, or tuition preparation. I had to check then and there who it was from.

STOP!

Graham suggests that the problem needs to be viewed in a different way: your email inbox is just where your emails land; don’t check your emails, process your emails; and don’t let your emails nag you all day.

Strategy

Firstly, look at your inbox as a landing page, not a to-do list. We tend to keep the emails in that inbox so we don’t lose them. The answer? New folders need to be created to hold actionable emails, and those emails which can be deferred.

Secondly, restrict checking emails to three times a day: first thing in the morning, or 9am (or whenever your business day starts); and 4:30pm to give you 30 minutes of reducing your email list to zero. Or later, if you don’t stop on the dot of 5pm. You may also want to check emails at lunchtime. Me … I am slowly restricting my addiction of reading of emails after 8pm … The same goes for checking social media or Slack. (My excuse is that some of my colleagues are in a different time zone.)

How to process (not check) emails:

  1. Scan the first email for a couple of seconds. Don’t hang about. Ask yourself, is it vital I action this? If yes, move to Action.
  2. Scan the next email. If someone is acknowledging they will action something you have delegated, move to Waiting. This guarantees that you will have a reminder to follow this up.
  3. If the next email is something not at all urgent but for perusing, say, a subscription which you want to read at your leisure, move to Read. Don’t start reading it now.
  4. Repeat steps 1–3.
  5. By the end of 30 minutes, there should be zero emails in your inbox.
  6. Repeat three times a day.

Subject folders

You may be like me and organise your emails into many subject or archive folders. Again, this can get out of hand. My next job is to whittle those down to more efficient descriptors. So that when I have gone through my burgeoning Read file, I will move each email to a re-named folder. Or delete it.

Graham’s theory is that if you have only three files to move the incoming emails into, it makes decision-making and sorting much easier. Agonising will be reduced to a manageable level.

If, say after a week, you look in the Read folder and email subject is no longer current or valid, delete. Or move it to an archive folder.

One of Graham’s tips is to think of a set of Ds: decide, do, delegate, defer, delete.

Cut the dead wood

Perhaps you subscribe to newsletters by email. For example, if you follow particular people for their business or subject knowledge … there are many out there. It may be time to review them and prune who you subscribe to.

Try subscribing to one for six months. Count how many of their newsletters you actually read (and follow the advice suggested) in those six months. Be honest. Be brutal. Cut out the dead wood and unsubscribe if the answer is only one or two. That is one way to reduce the number of emails you get …

If you are successful with this method, you will feel you have more control over those incoming emails.

Information overload

Information overload is a threat to our prductivity, so I recommend Graham’s book if you want to be proactive about reducing that overload. By managing your emails, and your time, by procrastinating less, you can focus on your priorities.

There you have it. If you learnt something from this post, find my other blog posts about my freelancing business here.

I look forward to finishing the book. Guess what – I have signed up for his newsletter.

Background: Graham Allcott

Founder of Think Productive (@thinkproductive), Graham Allcott is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and podcaster, coaching strategies for business and time management. He is host of the podcast Beyond Busy. His book was first published by Icon Books Publication in 2014, and totally revised in 2019 because of the advances in technology.

Other chapters in Graham’s book include:

  • The Organize Habit
  • The Review Habit
  • The Do Habit
  • Stop Messing About on Your Phone

Editing Training Part 2

Training is one of the hot topics during this Coronavirus pandemic.  You may have more time on your hands than usual. You may be thinking about using that time to do some training, also known as CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

In my original blog post about training here, I mentioned that my next aim was to apply for the CIEP Proofreading mentoring scheme. In this episode I update you on my progress.

I am #TallTartanTalks … and I  see a lot of questions on social media asking about training. If you are confused about the when, which, how and why of proofreading training, this post may help you make up your mind.

Training is VITAL to reflect that you take the owning of your editing business seriously. Especially if, like me, you have no background in publishing.

So … are you wondering about proofreading training? Or are you a prospective client wondering about my professional qualifications?

Change of path

After three decades as a Primary School teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave. I was slowly coming to terms with a daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was changing. I needed to find a Plan B.

Marking’s my thing, I thought. Why don’t I apply my skills to a new business?

The thought of working from home as a freelancer was in the back of my mind and very tempting.  (Read Episode 2 to find out what I did …)

If you are looking at training providers, the CIEP  and the PTC (Publishing Training Centre) offer the most creditable training in proofreading and copyediting.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (now in my fourth year), I have completed the following CIEP (formerly Society for Editors and Proofreaders) courses and CPD:

  1. Proofreading Progress (2016)
  2. References (2016)
  3. Getting work with Non-publishers (2017)
  4. Educational Publishing Development Day (2018)
  5. Mini conference in Newcastle (May 2019)
  6. Proofreading mentoring scheme (completed May 2020)
  7. Every CIEP annual conference since 2017

These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate Member. Here is the link to the Training page of the CIEP website.

In addition, you can keep an ongoing record of your formal CPD in the section called Upgrade your membership. There you can add courses as you complete them. The system saves them, so that you can keep returning to add more information. If you are a CIEP member and haven’t explored this benefit, it’s well worth it.

Mini conference in Newcastle

Since I wrote my last blog post about training, I realised that it’s just over a year since I got the train to Newcastle for this mini one-day conference in May 2019. It was very well organised by the NE Editors group. See my blog post about the event here.

Proofreading mentoring

This post brings my training up to date – I have completed the Proofreading mentoring scheme as a mentee.

So what is this scheme? The following guidance is taken from the Mentoring page of the CIEP website.

Successful mentees can gain up to 10 points towards upgrading their membership. The number of points gained depends on the mentor’s answers to five questions about the mentee:

  1. Are they literate? (grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation)
  2. Are they businesslike? (prompt, clear, efficient, follow brief, communicate well)
  3. Are they accurate? (spot and deal with editorial errors)
  4. Do they use appropriate mark-up? (BS 5261:2005, plus PDFs or Track Changes if used)
  5. Do they use good judgement? (level of queries, frequency and extent of intervention).

The mentor sends a variety of real jobs they have done for clients. These range in subject area and complexity. You are encouraged and supported in a one-to-one partnership. Communication and questioning are recommended.

I found that carrying out the work, following each specific brief, in a safe environment, is a good way to learn.

My knowledge vastly increased, including how to query. I learnt how different clients would expect you to deal with projects and relationships in different ways.

Of course, my confidence wavered considerably through the six months with highs and lows, as it does on any course. But, you don’t learn if it is easy. You don’t learn if you don’t make mistakes. I say that to my primary students all the time, especially when they are upset if they got something wrong. Showing you are learning from your mistakes, by applying the lessons learnt, is one of the key points.

As total commitment is necessary, there was a huge wash of positive relief when the last mentoring feedback was returned.

Why training is vital

I am fortunate that I have been able to invest in my ongoing CPD with the CIEP over the last four years of my freelancing career.

Evidence of CPD on your website and CV gives your prospective clients confidence in your skills; your professionalism, expertise and integrity will be evident. Highlighting these is imperative.

Next training opportunity?

The annual September CIEP conference attracts 3 CPD points towards upgrade. I have written some blog posts on this subject too!

In this year of the pandemic, the September 2020 conference in Milton Keynes is cancelled. However, there are plans to move it online in some form. Check with the CIEP for details.

I know I am not alone in looking forward to the alternative conference. Here’s to #CIEP2020!

 

Tall Tartan Tells About Websites and Marketing

Much has happened since I first wrote, a year ago, about marketing my proofreading business, so this is the update. How I told the world I was open for business.

Building a website, social media and content marketing were the essential strategies I used, back in 2017, to proclaim my arrival about my new services as a proofreader.

In a previous episode, ‘Business Plan and Training’, I detailed how I became a freelancer offering proofreading services after decades as a Primary school teacher. In this tweaked blog post, I describe how I decided on my marketing strategy and how it has evolved.

As a freelance business owner, I know some folks who still cringe at the thought of putting any personal details ‘out there’. Or haven’t got the interest or skills in building a website. But, in my opinion, how else are you going to advertise your services or get business unless you are a presence on-line? There is also plenty of support out there if you need guidance.

A ‘shop window’

A website is essential: you need a ‘shop window’ to display your business”. These were the words of my Business Mentor at my local Job Centre when they helped me set up as a self-employed proofreader. So, the process of choosing a website domain, a host, designing my website, plus researching the content marketing world of social media was a steep learning curve.

But I have come far over the last two years!

Also, in recent months, I have seen many people entering the world of editing and proofreading who are asking all the questions I asked then.  So this might help. What follows is what I did.

Build a website

By January 2017, my NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) Business Plan (with People Plus) had been approved, and I was told by my mentor to go away and build a website. The only domain name which was available and that I liked the sound of was Proofnow. So that was the easy part. Proofnow Proofreader was born.

“How do I build a website?” My only experience had been editing my class page on the website of the school where I taught.

I chose my first website host. Fair enough, the building of each page was fairly straightforward: I added Services, Pricing and About pages, with a few photographs for variety; I emphasised my previous career as a teacher with efficient marking skills – this would be my USP. I could add a couple of testimonials after getting some proofreading work.

Tweaking

Although I was pleased with the look of the site on the desktop of the PC, it looked dreadful on my mobile. One tip I had read was that your website must be viewable on all devices.

At the end of my first year I knew I had to find a different host. So, I did some fairly intense research to find my next website host. John Espirian (relentlessly helpful technical copywriting for B2B websites, LinkedIn nerd) gives good advice as well as offering discounts on his website. One such offer is with Siteground for hosting, amongst others, WordPress.

New website

I copied everything over, probably using old-fashioned techniques, and not how a website designer would do it … But, after a couple of phone calls to Siteground customer service to solve the odd glitch – they were very supportive – I was up and active with my new host. What a relief!

Over time, I read and researched more about how your website should be less about you and more about how you can solve problems for your potential client. This gave me the courage to tweak the theme and wording.

Basic website tips

  • easy to read, clear font
  • your headshot and/or logo
  • your services – what you can do for your client
  • contact details – how does a new client get in touch with you?
  • Say less of what ‘I’ can do but what ‘you’, the client, needs. How can you (the freelance) can solve their (client) problem?
  • match the branding on your website with that on your social media sites where you will publish and market your website. In other words: same headshot, same banner, same headline/tagline for consistent marketing. (A JE tip.)
  • Designing your brand is made easier by choosing prepared designs from a free app.  Canva is a design programme for those who have basic technical skills. I found it really useful when ensuring consistency in designing the banners for marketing my website and social media profile pages. This represents ‘joined-up marketing’.

Everything I tried with my website involved trial and error, with the undo button at hand. Also, with sheer surprise if something worked first time!

Visibility

Now, having been with WordPress for two years, I am now happy with my website and proud of what I have achieved so far. It is easy to self-manage and looks good on a desktop, tablet and smartphone. Statistics show that mobile devices are used more for browsing websites than any other. Indeed, smartphones mean that websites can be viewed immediately when a link is shared. So, it is essential that your website works, and looks good. Anywhere.

Social media

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, …? What kind of social media do you prefer? Where are you going to share your website? What kind of content marketer are you? I know some folks who steer well clear. They’re just not interested. I know some folks who do it ALL. Is that a good idea? Does it work? Does it GET you work?

Facebook

The first thing I did on Facebook when I started my business was to advertise Proofnow Proofreader as a business Facebook page because I understood it.

This year I have joined more Facebook support groups. Anything you need reassurance for, it’s there, whether you are a freelancer, editor, proofreader or tutor.

Here are some of the Facebook groups I enjoy which you could try:

LinkedIn

I was fortunate to attend a workshop on LinkedIn run by fellow SfEP-er John Espirian at the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) annual conference in 2018: ‘How not to be a LinkedIn Loser’. I learnt A LOT. He gives results of methods he has tried to make the algorithm work for him, then passes on the tips. In fact, I’m going to see John talk on this very subject at the Cambridge Social Media Day (#CSMDay2019) just up the M11 from me, in November, when I will undoubtedly top up my skills.

LinkedIn tips

He recommends liking and commenting on the posts of others to engage in conversation, rather than sharing (which is a Twitter algorithym). This raises the visibility of your profile. To some, LinkedIn is where important contacts can be followed, and serious business connections can be made. Work may even follow. This is my favourite way to post my blog posts where colleagues  can engage. Here is my LinkedIn page. Judge for yourself. Why don’t you try personalising your invite to connect? Then I will understand how we can help each other.

LinkedIn is also beneficial as recommendations can be made. After doing a proofreading job on a punctuation book for children, I was able to send the author a link where she could write a testimonial. It’s impactful because the focus is on the client to write it for you.

Twitter

On Twitter, retweeting (sharing) posts of those you follow, and your own posts improves engagement. I engage on Twitter because a lot of SfEP members are there. An educational author even got in touch and offered me a proofreading job! Here is my Twitter page.

Like, comment, share

Having read a HUGE array of tips about content marketing, everything I have learnt has been by osmosis, by watching how others do it. However, it IS an effort to stay on top of content on social media.  When following those you subscribe to for tips and advice, it is imperative to be selective. Take control, and make your inbox manageable. Or it can become addictive or overwhelming. And you never get any work done.

Content marketing

If you want to share content, planning is vital. Blogging, for instance, is far more effective if subjects are planned for the long term. Then fit in spontaneous posts when giving a reaction to situations. I try to publish a blog post monthly – it’s scary how quickly those months go.

When I share a #TallTartanTells blog post, I aim to do it on a day when I am at home and have the time to like and comment on the engagement. This is timetabled in my diary.  As a result, when I engage, my website viewing statistics improve rapidly.

Others prefer to use scheduling tools (like Buffer and Hootsuite) so that the timings of content posting are automatic. The worry of manual posting is removed.

Next …

In my next blog post I will return to the subject of Primary tuition, and how it links to educational publishers as clients. You can read my introduction to this theme in my blog post here.