On the left is a screenshot of what my phone used to look like. On the right is a photo of my wife and son. I cherish those vibrant smiles! For a while, though, I was missing out on too many of their joyful expressions. My family was in the same room with me, but I wasn’t engaging with them because my face was buried in my mobile device replying to emails. Furthermore, the quality of my engagement with clients suffered as well. Instead of crafting thoughtful replies while in the right frame of mind, I was shooting off brief replies just to get through the process.
I never gave this a second thought before I became a parent. Though frankly, my wife never appreciated my incessant distraction. So why did I do it? Because I thought I had to. It’s what executives do, right? They monitor everything happening in their company 24/7 and are quick to respond to each opportunity and challenge that comes their way. But at what cost? In my case, it cost my mental and emotional presence during personal/family time. I was present in body, but my mind was somewhere else.
I’m not the only person with this habit. Other people in my company do it. Many of my colleagues and peers do it. Advisors fall victim to it. It’s almost like some sort of sick social club:
“I replied to your email at 10:00 p.m. so I must be committed like you are. Let’s be pals!”
But replying to work emails on evenings and weekends isn’t responsible. It’s shortsighted.
I came to this realization a couple months ago and made a major adjustment to how I manage email that has changed my life for the better. This change has been so profoundly beneficial to my life and relationships that I feel obligated to share it. Taking these two steps has made me a better CEO and a better family man.
SaneBox is magical and more people should use it! While the tool offers many features, I’ll cover two that are most valuable to me.
First, whenever I receive an email, SaneBox checks to see if it was sent as part of an email blast to a mailing list. If so, it is automatically diverted to a separate folder called SaneNews. All my newsletters and advertisements go to this folder. I know they’ll remain there unopened for me to read later. Nothing in my SaneNews folder is urgent so I feel no pressure to check it. Every once in a while when I have spare time, I’ll go review what’s there and read what piques my interest. If I find something I want to prioritize to my inbox for the future, I can just drag it there and it will come to my inbox from then on.
Second, whenever someone I have no interest in hearing from keeps pestering me by email, I can drag their email to SaneBlackHole. Once I do this, all future emails from that person or organization are sent to a folder where they stay for one week until they are automatically deleted — never to bother me again (it’s glorious).
The result of these two features is: The only emails that make it to my inbox are the ones I ask to receive, or the ones that come from a real person who made the effort to email me directly, 1:1, the old-fashioned way.
Thank you SaneBox! You are the best $99 I spend each year.
2. Mailbox Off
I know this method of email management is more controversial. Some people will never do this because of fear or addiction, but I can assure you that 1) your company won’t fail if you do this, and 2) the withdrawals will pass. More importantly, your clients will appreciate your thorough and thoughtful responses written when you’re in a better frame of mind.
Are you ready for it? Here it is:
I turned off my work email account on my cell phone.
Shocking, I know. But keep reading.
First, I didn’t delete my work email account from my mobile device. I leave my calendar, notes, and reminders turned on. When I travel, I turn the account back on and all my work emails instantly come flooding into my phone as usual. (See screenshot below for how to do this on an iPhone).
What are the benefits of doing this? Simply put, the only emails I receive in the evenings, early morning hours and on weekends are personal emails. During work hours, I answer work emails from my work computer in my work office. In the evenings, I leave my work where it belongs: At work. This frees up my personal time exclusively for things of a personal nature. Like reading, relaxing, exercising, and spending quality uninterrupted time with my beautiful wife and son.
If there truly is a work emergency to handle, my employees and important clients all have my cell phone number to call or text me. And of course, all the emails are waiting for my reply on the next business day. As long as I respond to people in a timely manner, no one faults me. They understand that I also have a personal life.
This practice has been tremendously freeing! I used to think that replying to emails after hours would save me time the next day and help me stay mentally organized. While those may have been minor benefits, they are far outweighed by the value of having a healthy personal life. In the end, it’s the proper balance of work and personal life that leads to truly sustainable success.
Robert Sofia is co-founder and CEO of Snappy Kraken, a firm that provides content and automated marketing solutions for financial advisors.
As a MarTech entrepreneur and marketing consultant, Robert Sofia has served over 1,000 companies since 2005. His list of clients includes solo advisers, ensembles, RIAs, family offices, BDs, GAs, BGAs, custodians, investment companies and insurance companies.
Robert has authored three books — two of which were bestsellers — and written about marketing for many national publications and financial industry journals. He is an award-winning public speaker.