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3 Easy Tricks: A Journalist’s Guide To Email

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Is there anything more anathema to the intrepid entrepreneurial soul than the bureaucratic rigours of email?

No one began a business saying ‘ damn, I’ma do me some emails’.

Alas, there’s still a long way to go before the email is consigned to the spam folder of history. But if we can’t get rid of it now, there are a few ways to do email better.

Strictly no circumlocutions (and pick up the damn phone!)

In a recent email correspondence, an entrepreneur replied: “I don’t write, I do.” It was hard to fault her response.

Although her point wasn’t  explicitly referring to email, her short replies suggest her maxim had been neatly repurposed for the age of email.

The structure of email still retains the vestigial limbs of handwritten correspondence.

The structure usually follows: greeting, small talk, what you really want, closing line, salutation and name.

Lost in this performative dance is the kernel of what you wanted. But how necessary are these accoutrements?

Traditional etiquette coaches would gasp if you eschewed the subtleties of 19th century written correspondence.

But it’s worth asking, why does an entrepreneur send an email and why does a modern consumer open and read email? Both parties want something.

Modern entrepreneurs could learn a thing or two from the 17th-century French polymath Blaise Pascal. “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter,” he famously apologised. “I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

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What Pascal understood was to craft a disciplined, thoughtful letter was a matter of respect. Of course, Pascal’s remark was delivered in the context of his time, it’s not completely true in the era of 200 emails-a-day.

But what he understood even then was that communication is initiated to serve a purpose.

Brevity isn’t a matter of saving time. It’s effectively communicating your point. If you are going to send emails then at least make it a results-driven enterprise.

Modern entrepreneurs could learn a thing or two from the 17th-century French polymath Blaise Pascal

James Hamblin, a senior editor at The Atlantic, has taken this to the next level. Hamblin doesn’t do salutations or sign-offs and strictly keeps emails to three sentences or less.

Don’t have time to synthesise your point into a neatly packaged email? Pick up the phone and call them.

Check less = reduce email stress

Okay, but if brevity isn’t necessarily brief then doesn’t that just take us back to square one? Well, if you’re constantly knee-deep in your inbox then yeah.

Brevity on its own isn’t enough: it should be combined with a disciplined approach to checking email.

Many entrepreneurs feel an immense pressure to reply immediately. But in the course of your business’s daily life, you’ll never outrun your emails; you will always tread water.

Not only does this rush to reply affect the quality of your correspondence (refer back to point one), it is also unproductive and actually bad for your health.

A study by the British Psychological Society found half of the subjects had emails automatically sent to their inbox (push notifications) and 62% left their email on all day.

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These habits were linked to higher levels of stress (which, if you didn’t know, will kill you).

“The habits we develop, the emotional reactions we have to messages and the unwritten organisational etiquette around email,” said the research lead Dr Richard MacKinnon, “combine into a toxic source of stress which could be negatively impacting our productivity and well-being.”

A healthier – and more productive solution – is scheduled checks. Marc Wileman, the founder of Sublime Science, only checks his email every few days. To compensate, an email to Wileman is immediately met with an auto-reply alerting the person to this and asked to contact him directly if it’s urgent.

Wileman’s approach might be a tad extreme for some, but a more disciplined, routinised check of the email will save you a lot of stress.

And as for push notifications: no, absolutely not, get rid of them, kill them dead.

Chat more

In a recent Guardian article, Slack’s user researcher Dr Leah Reich argued email is an outmoded way of communicating. “Email,” Reich said, “is hierarchical and compartmentalised and great for political manoeuvring.”

Slack is arguably the leading light in the modern workplace’s chat revolution. It is, though, certainly not the only one: there’s Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, Salesforce’s Chatter.

A more disciplined, routinised check of email will save you a lot of stress.

Whatever the platform, they would all argue inter-employee email is unnecessary and not conducive to creativity.

“How often is there deep collaboration and sharing on email?” Reich told the Guardian.”That weird overlapping feeling of ideas and iteration and design thinking? That’s still new to a lot of people. It’s radical collaboration, a different way of working and thinking.”

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Especially in an idea-driven workspace, the new wave of chat apps opens up new channels of collaboration. Their instantaneousness engenders an informality that drives right-to-the-point; it’s certainly preferable to the staid email and sneaky BCCs.

Alex likes to write about anything related to technology, marketing and gadgets. He sometimes reviews the latest tech and also writes on other blogs.

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Best Practices For Project Management in the Modern, Connected Era

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Regardless of the type of business, you’re running or even the industry that you’re operating in, the core goals of project management remain the same. You’re still talking about the successful development of not only the initiation of a project but also the planning, execution, regulation and even closure.

The decisions you make in the early stages of project management can easily mean the difference between success and failure in terms of everything that you’re trying to accomplish. During the beginning of a project, you’re setting goals and agreeing on critical factors like scope, time, quality and even budget. Naturally, keeping everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction is of paramount importance.

Which, of course, is a lot easier said than done.

Project management can be difficult in general – to say nothing of how hard things become when more people are suddenly working remotely than ever. But it is still possible to use these early moments in a project’s development lifecycle to set the foundation upon which everything else will be built. You just need to keep a few key things in mind while you do it.

The Art of Project Management: Breaking Things Down

By far, the most important step you can take in terms of successful project management in the modern era involves making sure that you have the right tools by your side at the beginning of the process.

The types of project tools that you embrace need to give you access to a few core features, regardless of which particular piece of software you choose. For the absolute best results, your tools should:

  • Allow your users to create and store data almost entirely in the cloud. People should be able to be just as productive in their own home as they can be in the comfort of their office at work – especially these days, for obvious reasons. Therefore, any tool that you select needs to allow them to accomplish precisely that.
  • Your tools should also give real-time reports to project managers into the status of ALL projects, regardless of how many are in progress at the same time. This is the best way to make sure that everyone is keeping up with their duties. It also gives project managers a chance to stop a small problem now before it has a chance to become a much bigger one down the road.
  • Your tools should also streamline workflows in a way that project managers can see how EVERY person on the team is performing. Not only that, but they should also provide invaluable metrics so that you can see how projects are moving along. This level of insight can help make sure that if any adjustments are needed they can be executed immediately, all so that you don’t even have to worry about missing your estimated completion date.
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The point about the cloud is particularly important in terms of creative project management software, as so many people on your team will essentially be drawing from the same resources at the same time. By embracing a tool that acts as a centralized location for all project-related tasks, files and documents, you’re doing your part to help boost productivity as much as possible. Communications and discussions become easier than ever and collaboration essentially becomes a forgone conclusion. All of this will pay dividends as your project moves farther down the line towards completion every single day.

Another key factor that you’ll want to keep in mind ultimately comes down to the type of support documentation that you’re creating along the way. For the sake of example, let’s say your current project involves getting an upcoming product ready for launch. You and your teams have worked tirelessly for months on getting this right – now, you’re just a few short weeks away from unleashing it on the entire world.

Don’t wait until the end of the project to start thinking about the types of support documentation that your users will need to get the most out of their purchase. These materials shouldn’t be an afterthought – they should be a natural part of the project management and development process from as early as possible.

All of this is to say that you should use a pie chart maker like Visme (which I founded) to create those visual “help” documents that people are going to need while you’re still going through the project, not after it is complete. This will allow you to proactively answer questions and address potential concerns while they’re all still fresh in your mind – thus leading to more accurate information that people can actually use.

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Likewise, you should be going to sites like Respona on a regular basis to research the types of topics that the people in your audience actually care about. If you do this while the project is still in the development stages, it can actually clue you in on certain features and other benefits to embrace that will further act as your value differentiator in the market at large.

Think about it like this. Let’s say you and your teamwork on your upcoming product and it’s (thankfully) totally finished. Then, you head to Respona for topic research and find out that a lot of your potential customers have the same core problem that they’re trying to solve. You could easily include a feature that helps them meet that challenge… or you could have if you’d have learned this information while you were still knee-deep in development.

If you were conducting this level of research while things were still fluid, you definitely would have been in a better position to pivot and capitalize on an opportunity instead of allowing it to pass you by.

This is why it’s important to think of these things not as an afterthought, but as a critical element of what you’re doing. You never know where inspiration is going to come from and no matter what, you need to be in a position to listen to it and adapt to it whenever possible. This is the part of project management that far too many people don’t pay enough attention to until it’s too late.

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Finally, one of the most important elements of successful project management involves keeping scope creep in check whenever you can. Every project has constraints – regardless of how many people are working with you or how large your budget is. But if your scope begins to shift in the wrong direction, things will slowly begin to fall apart before you know it. If things change too drastically, you could be dealing with budget overruns and you could easily lose buy-in from the stakeholders you’re going to need when everything is said and done.

Therefore, you must make it a priority to manage scope creep in a proactive way. Don’t think about it at the end of each month or at the end of the week. Keep it in the back of your mind every single day and don’t be afraid to confront it when necessary.

If you’re able to keep all of these things in mind during the project management process, there’s truly no limit to what you and your colleagues will be able to accomplish.

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7 Reasons Why Its Important to Have a Niche

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A niche is a focused, targetable segment of the market. You are a specialist providing a product or service that focuses on the specific needs of an identified client group, which cannot or are not being addressed in such detail by the dominant providers in your industry.

But it is important to understand that there is, in fact, a difference between your identified niche and your target market.

Your target market is a specific identifiable group of people you work with, e.g. women in the city, technology start-ups, creative agency owners, small and medium businesses in a particular revenue range.

Your niche is the service you specialise in offering to your target market.

For example, standing desks are aimed at professionals who work in front of a computer for long periods of time. This is a well-defined niche.

Here are 7 reasons why it is important to have a niche:

To avoid spreading yourself too thin

Instead of the risk of spreading yourself too thin in saying that ‘everyone’ is your potential client, niche marketing will help you to focus on a specific grouping of people, and particularly on what their needs and wants are.

You will unlikely to be able to serve everybody, so it is important to focus on what you do best and aim it at a specific group of people who will likely buy what you offer.

It is important to find out what is important to them, what blogs they read, their beliefs and attitudes, who the main influencers in that network are.

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Having these insights means that you can develop products or services specifically aimed at this group, based on your thorough knowledge and understanding of what they are interested in.

It’s easier to identify and target potential clients and partners to work with

As the pool of people that exists for a niche is smaller than its mainstream equivalent, it will be easier to identify potential clients and partners to work with, as you can be much more targeted and laser-focused with your marketing efforts.

It’s easier to become an expert and well known in your niche

Niching means it will be much easier for others to understand ‘what you do’ and ‘for whom’, which will make it easier to position you as an expert in your field. As this group is more targeted and of a smaller size, you can rapidly become well known within this group of people.

Your profile and overall visibility will increase within this group. It is a small world after all!

More and better referrals

Since it will be easier for others to understand what you do and for whom, it, in turn, becomes much easier for them to refer more and better quality clients to you that fit the profile of your ideal client, as you have built up trust, credibility, visibility, and it is very clear as to what your specialism is.

The more unique you are, the less competition you will have

There will be less competition, as you will provide the specific services or create the specific products for the specific people you are seeking to help in a specific way that meets their needs. The BIG advantage of becoming more unique is that usually it can’t be easily replicated by your competition!

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Marketing becomes much easier

Effective niche marketing should really help with your marketing, positioning and branding as you will attract the ‘right people’ much more easily and quickly. People with similar interests tend to behave and are attracted to similar things. This means that many of your clients will do all the hard work for you as they will refer you more and more because your profile, credibility and influence are readily apparent within your tribe.

More repeat business

As you are able to provide an increasingly better service or product, based on your specific client’s needs, it is likely that you will get more repeat business – people will come back for more, and as an added benefit will often start spending more with you as your relationship grows with them.

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