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The power of unsubscribe

You might be loosing more time than you think.

I would be surprised if anyone reading this has not experienced the avalanche of emails that come with owning and running a business. While it is great to be updated on the latest offers and products from suppliers and service providers, sometimes it can feel a little like you are surrounded by a group of small and very vocal children all vying for your attention.

From a marketing perspective, mailing lists and subscriptions are a very powerful tool to connect, communicate and engage with new and existing clients. But sometimes enough is enough! So I thought I would provide some handy advice on managing what can be a disturbingly damaging daily disruption to working patterns and productivity.

As a business consultant it sometimes amuses me the vast amount of redundant mail that clients are receiving, and often it is part of why they are struggling to concentrate on the day to day leadership or resolve a critical issue. By not focusing on their brand or operational work they undermine any effort they make with the distractions of being marketed to on a constant basis. One client I met with who was struggling to progress their business, sat with their laptop incessantly pinging away with mail and then dismissing each in turn with a click of their mouse.

Despite it being an obvious distraction I don’t think they were actually aware of it until I pointed out the issue.

A Trojan horse

One of the first things to point out is that while distractions are a problem most people are unaware of them because they build up over time.

They are essentially a digital bad habit that we pick up, normalize and then through no fault of our own come to accept as part of our everyday lives. We let the distraction through because we think it gives us value. In a lot of cases that is probably true, but often times it does not take long for this information stream to become a negative draw on your energy and attention.

Reports vary but it is estimated that it takes a full 20 minutes for a person to regain focus on the task they are doing each time they are distracted. So if you are distracted just 5 times in one day then the impact can be significant in terms of what you can achieve. It’s why in well organized settings working from home has proven to many business leaders that some (not all) employees can be more productive, especially when you consider that Susan isn’t walking in and talking about last nights soaps, and Dave isn’t rambling on about how his favored football team is going to win in the league this year, yet more distractions to our attention.

Circling back to my client, I commented that he was a very popular person with all of the mail he was receiving. He replied that most of it was just automated mails from suppliers and companies that they worked with. I asked him how many emails like that he received in a day and he replied “probably about 10-20”. Just think about that while applying the 20 minute distraction rule! That would mean that in excess of 80% of his working day could potentially be unfocused and less productive!

So how can we proactively resolve these digital distractions while ensuring the relevant information we could receive is still gathered? Here a few things that can help straighten out your day.

Step 1. Identify

Firstly identify whether the information you get from automated mail is relevant to you and your setting. If you use your work computer for things like your personal car insurance, or perhaps online shopping during your lunch break, then avoid using your work email as the account when you log in.

Simply put, offers from Tesco on BBQ party food or reminders that your dog insurance is due on 30 days have no bearing on your work productivity. Separate your work and home mail and check your personal mail during breaks, or, better still before or after work. It is highly unlikely that anything you receive via mail is going to be so urgent it cannot wait until you are out of work mode!

All non-work-related mail to go to your own personal address – and importantly this doesn’t mean you should have your Gmail account open on a tab in your browser just in case. When you are working focus on the task at hand.

The same applies to muting social media notifications, but that is a whole category of distraction that warrants a deeper conversation so we will park that possible rabbit hole right now.

Step 2. Validate

Sometimes you will subscribe to something as part of buying a product from a supplier. Sometimes you might have a need or interest in a subject that will help you keep up to date with industry changes or your competitors.

If you have a valid reason for receiving mailshots and updates then categorize them as such. If the mail is coming from a company you bought something from which you will never need again, or is based on a project you were working on but have completed, then it is unlikely there will be any value in continuing to receive anything from them.

I realized once that I was receiving mailers from a number of brands I had looked at during a project as part of some brand research work I was doing. Despite having finished the project I continued to open the mailers and read the updates despite them have no value to the clients I was currently working for. The project had raised a personal interest in the clients market sector, but the mailers were invalid for work purposes, needless to say these were removed. So in short if the information has value keep it, if not mark it for the next step.

Step 3. Reduce

Analyze in turn each mail you receive using the validation process, and if the mail has little or no relevance then unsubscribe. Do it when the mail comes in so you don’t forget and slowly you will begin to diminish the distractions of the day.

For subscriptions or mailers that have some value, or perhaps have value but are distracting because they are frequent, for example PR agency updates relevant to a current project, then be smarter and make sure all emails and mailers from that source get diverted to a specific folder outside of your main inbox. Then allocate a fixed time during the day or week to check them.

Be brutal with your reductions and equally so with the way you validate each source. Remember the objective is removing distractions.

Step 4. Maintenance

There is no way around it, you will either deliberately or more likely accidentally subscribe to things that have no value on a frequent basis. To avoid having to sift through your inbox it makes sense to undertake instant housekeeping on things moving forward.

Be vigilant when going online and read the subscribe/unsubscribe check box carefully before clicking on it. Some sites declare “I want to subscribe to mailers” others declare “do not send me mailers” and the inconsistency inevitably leads to some undesirable mail getting through.

Also be cautious around subscriptions that declare they will be given permission to share your information with partners they work with. This can be a slippery slope and open the floodgates for more distractions.

Step 5, and beyond

Rather than get into granular details on other ways to reduce digital distractions, I think it might be more prudent to provide a list, and brief description for each of the other things that you can also do to reduce the time drain and brain fog of living in a connected world.

Learning from your own experience.

Hopefully by following the advice in this article you will be able to reduce the number of digital distractions you experience on a daily basis. It won’t stop the dog barking or someone walking into your office unannounced, with information that “just can’t wait” but it will for the times when you are locked into the zone in front of your computer go some way to improving the way you work.

It’s funny, but I suppose I am only now realizing just why my numerous business trips were so productive when travelling to the USA or Asia to visit manufacturing or distribution partners. The mail I received for the most part was from a different time zone, so it hit my inbox mainly before or after the hours I was working overseas. As a result I would see a block of messages and mail, compartmentalize them and then deal with them in a session allocated in the day.

But how does this affect my marketing?

If you haven’t already asked yourself this question then perhaps you might have missed the point of the whole article. As a product and brand consultant a lot of clients are looking for ways to reach their customers.

As a result, the usual starting point is for the business to decide that they will bombard potential revenue streams with mailers, messages and calls. If you wanted to reduce your inbox traffic and distractions then guess what? You are not the only one. This is why making sure your content and collateral is interesting, provides value and is delivered in a way that is NOT going to become yet another unsubscribe casualty.

For that you need a strategy with clear objectives and an understanding of the customers you are trying to talk to.

That is, however, a story for another time. But if you want to discuss it feel free to send us a message.

Other things you can do to reduce distractions…

1. Turn off pop up notifications from your email on your desktop.

Unless you are customer facing and always need to answer messages, having emails constantly pop up can be a big distraction. You can leave on the audio notification to know that you have received mail, but turning off pop ups can make a big difference to your day. Of course turning off the audio notification will reduce distractions even more.

2. Delete the news app and notifications from your phone!

They pop up and tell you what random celebrities are wearing and why you should “try this first”. But ultimately if you want to keep up to date with the news then carve out some time to do it properly. Finding out in real time that Tesla has just launched a submarine is not going to transform your day or improve your efficiency.

3. Turn off social media

If you can’t live without your social media notifications, then at least make sure they don’t send you emails. If the icon on your phone is constantly showing that little red circle with the number of messages you have got, then its going to be a time drain. Putting all social apps into a dedicated folder or moving them to another home screen makes a huge difference.

4. Turn off your phones ringer and vibrate.

Again a luxury a lot of us cant afford, especially when your work phone is your mobile. But when you really need to focus, just put it on silent and do what you need to do.

5. Take breaks.

It might sound obvious but setting time between meetings and tasks really helps maintain focus when you need it. Setting some dedicated time away from your screen and phone means you won’t be tempted to surf your inbox or apps in your break time, and allows your brain to reset in readiness for the next task you need to do.

About the Author:

Luke Green works as a brand consultant and product consultant for UK Based Ballistica LTD as well as serving as a Non Executive Director with a variety of companies from various industries. With a long history in the Music industry working with Marshall Amplification he is passionate about ensuring products and services reflecting the needs and expectations of end users.

If your brand wants to explore moving forward, developing or evolving your product portfolio, or perhaps you are looking at launching a new brand to market, then Ballistica can provide a free discovery consultation to establish what could work for you.



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