How often have you wanted a few more hours in the day? I know I have and without a doubt it is the most common request from business owners.

Owning a business is exhilarating but it can also be exhausting, especially if you’re having to deal with an overflowing inbox, social media messages, text messages, phone calls, and the list goes on. Each day we are bombarded by messages which suck up a precious resource – our time.

When exploring the causes of these time killers’ my clients often discover that they have unwittingly created a virtuous cycle of communicating that drowns out their ability to act and work on their business. Over the next three articles, I’m going to explore three productivity principles (the 5 Minute, 5 Sentence and Fifty Minute Block) that I advise using to get some time back in your day.

And the first is to stop playing message tennis.

Message Tennis

How many times have you reached the end of a game of message tennis, realised you had spent literal hours sending emails (or social media posts, or text messages) back and forth on a topic which ate into your productivity and focus which should have been elsewhere, and thought, “this could have been solved in a 5-minute phone call?

Don’t mistake ‘busyness’ with ‘productivity.’ It’s easy to spend all day playing “messaging tennis”, clearing your inbox and catching up on messages, all while achieving nothing on your to-do list. I know I have.

I now use the Five-Minute Principle to respond to emails (it can also be applied to social media) which has improved my productivity, and reduced the amount of time I wasted volleying back and forth in message tennis.

What is the Five-Minute Principle?

I never spend more than five minutes reading or writing a work email.

You read that right. Five minutes tops to read or respond to an email. With a bit of practice each email can take 30 seconds to write — which means, even if I write 100 emails a day, it’s still only an hour of responding to emails.

What if it’s an important email?

If I think it’ll take longer than five minutes to write, I mentally question whether an email is appropriate and often call or Zoom. There’s a very good chance that my client or whoever wants an email response will have follow up questions, and one long email will simply follow another long email. Making the time to get in front of them, either in-person, virtually, or on the phone will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Sometimes, there’s just no escaping longer emails. So, if I think my response is going to take longer than five minutes, or five sentences I create a 30minute meeting in my diary to complete. I’ll finish up my quick responses, before dedicating the time and mental energy to respond to the bigger issue.

The point here is, I take the time to question what is required and find the best format before responding. I don’t react! I advise clients, staff, and you to use this principle.

How can I get faster at recording notes or replying to emails?

All phones and your laptop have built-in microphones and mostly email platforms have a microphone in the corner of the ‘new message’ window. If, like me, you struggle to type quickly, click or tap the microphone button and dictate those emails. I use this function every day to record client notes, emails and even reports. It is one easy way to get back some time and improve your productivity.

Are those dictation services always perfect? Definitely not. For some reason, our Kiwi accents and vernacular don’t always translate. The good news is, unless it’s completely butchered what you were trying to say, most of our employees or long-standing clients will forgive a few typos in an email.

The Five Minute Principle will give you more time in your day

As leaders, what we do can get accepted as how things must be done around here. Set the example you wish the rest of your team to follow. There’s a good chance that if you’re spending 15 to 20 minutes crafting the perfect email response, your employees are too. How much more time could be saved if they picked up the phone, or sent a Zoom link, and actually connected with the people they needed to talk to.

Disregard long emails to the rubbish bin, and get more time in your day.

If you want to get more time back in your day, and get back to what’s important, contact myself or a Prime Strategies business advisor to find out how.