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This article concludes the 4-week challenge to get the workflow between you and your VA as productive as possible.

You can have a workflow that is as optimised as the most successful companies out there, and you can have it within a month by completing the 4 steps (challenges) we shared.

For each challenge, we provided all the steps necessary to complete it successfully and achieve results faster.

Week 4: Hand over your Inbox and get only essential e-mails. Nothing Else.

Why is it important to protect yourself from people who constantly try to reach you?

How do you train your VA to “sound” just like you when they reply on your behalf? How should they treat the various e-mails you receive? How do you ensure you get only the e-mails that are truly necessary for you to get and nothing more?

Assistants can be a super, secret weapon making you doubly as productive because while they are getting the e-mails done, you are finishing something else. With proper training, recipients will not even know it was not you who replied but your Assistant.

Hand over communication to your Assistant

If you are successful in business, too many people will have your contact details AND attempt to use it. Along the road, you come to the humble conclusion that you have only so much energy, finite resources and limited time. Unfortunately, you can not meet everybody or do business with each person that reaches out. And attempting to will become detrimental to yourself and your business.

However, there is a way to handle the situation professionally: Let every e-mail go through your Assistant. Let them read it first and forward only what is important to you. The rest they process using pre-determined parameters. Requests for meetings or collaborations that do not need your input are replied to on your behalf. Your Assistant is politely saying no to protect your time.

These steps will empower your Assistant to take over all your e-mails:

  1. Eliminate, then automate

Take a critical look at the messages in your inbox and eliminate unnecessary processing by unsubscribing and creating rules.

  • Unsubscribe to most of the newsletters you receive and only keep those that truly add value.
  • Create rules in your e-mail account to make some e-mails skip your inbox altogether. A good example here is bank statements. Create a rule that marks the e-mail as read as soon as it arrives and then archives it automatically. This way you know it is stored safe and sound, but you did not have to process it. Another one is proofs of payment. You should definitely not rely solely on this document to verify a payment, as they are often and easily forged. Let your inbox just delete them automatically (and check your actual bank account for the payment).
  • Standardise replies with templates in signatures

Scan through the e-mails you sent over the last 4 weeks and identify the ones where you have repeated your reply. These are basically your FAQs.

Now formulate the best possible answer to each FAQ. Include links, examples, stories – everything the recipient needs to feel like you have given them the time of day. Aim to pre-empt and address all concerns in one go so that the recipient does not have to send another e-mail with a different question.

Finally, save your perfect reply as a signature in your mailbox. The next time your Assistant (or you) has to answer one of these FAQs, hit reply and choose the signature that contains the answer you drafted earlier. You can edit any pertinent information, add a personal note and send it. It takes your response time down to a minute.

Writing these templates has the added advantage of teaching your Assistant how to sound just like you. They will know how you like to reply, so they can draft more standard replies to other FAQs.

  • Give guidelines and authority – If A then B, if C then D.

Empowering your Assistant to act on your behalf does not stop at teaching them to sound like you. It goes one step further by also enabling them to make some decisions on your behalf.

Provide your Assistants with scenarios that regularly play out in your business and explain the different ways you want them to handle the scenarios. You can start with low-risk decisions and gradually increase the responsibility but giving clear direction as to how you would resolve a situation will help you reach your desired outcome faster.

For example, “If a customer complains that their package arrived late, reply with this e-mail template, also ask the courier company for an explanation.

 If a customer complains that they did not receive their complete order, reply with this template and offer a 5% discount. Ask the shipping department for an explanation and BCC me.

If it is the second time that ABC, then do DEF, etc.”

Your aim here should be to instruct once only. Try to pre-empt the different scenarios and provide detailed instructions for each.

  • Create a private address for yourself

There will be some e-mails that only you can or want to answer, and for this reason, you must create another private address for yourself.

Your Assistant will now forward only those e-mails that s/he is not empowered to answer (or is for your personal attention) to your private address.

Be careful to whom you circulate your private address, and remember to change the reply-to address to the one your Assistant manages. Otherwise, you might end up right back where you started.

What will you gain by handing your Inbox to your Assistant?

Your time is truly invaluable. After completing these steps, you should have drastically reduced the time you spend processing e-mails. You will be left with more time to spend on other wealth-producing activities, be they monetary or quality of life.