August 24, 2018

I didn’t check email on vacation—and you shouldn’t either

Filed under: Small Business — Tags: , , , , , , , , — lidia @ 10:48 am

I recently went on vacation with my family and decided to do something I haven’t done in several years: completely unplug.

Cutting the (digital) cord isn’t easy

During the 17 years I’ve been in business, I’ve developed a habit of bringing my laptop on vacation—either to finish up a late or last-minute project or “just in case.” Even if I don’t have projects going on, I inevitably end up checking my work email—“just in case.”

As a small business owner, I know my clients are counting on me so it’s a little scary to completely step away from my work life: “What if something comes up? What if someone needs me to solve a problem? What if the most amazing opportunity of my business life comes up and I miss it?”

However, once we got to our tropical destination, I had a realization: I didn’t have any outstanding projects, my clients knew I was out for a week (and I assume didn’t expect me to stay in touch)—why did I even need to check my email?

The benefits of a digital detox

As a heavy email and social media user—and honestly, feeling a little burned out on it lately—the thought of taking a “digital detox” appealed to me. As this New York Times post about how not to let your phone ruin your vacation points out, “What is the best thing that could be waiting for you? At the very least, checking your phone will distract you. And if you find bad news waiting for you, it can ruin your day.”

The post goes on to say, “Mentally and physically, we can’t be two places at once. So every time you turn your attention to your phone, you are turning your attention away from everything else.” Which in my case were my family, palm trees and a beach across the street. So the laptop stayed off and phone was relegated to photos, daily journaling, and the occasional Instagram post (old habits die hard!)

Also, checking your work email can affect your partner’s mood. According to this study on email inclivity, people transmit their inbox-related stress onto their partner. Kind of a vacation buzzkill, right?

And lucky for parents, kids are a natural deterrent to our digital devices. Our son has a habit of saying, “Put your phone down and play with me!” And I totally agree with Arianna Huffington’s thoughts on the subject: “Having children was the best possible antidote to my workaholic ‘always on’ tendencies. It gave me perspective and the ability to be more detached from the inevitable ups and downs of work life.”

Vacations can keep you healthy—and wealthy

According to Project Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2018, more than half of Americans are still not using all the vacation time they earn. Many people admit skipping vacation days due to workload or fears of appearing less productive than coworkers.

However, not using those vacation days can actually hold you back: According to Project Time Off’s study, more than 50% of people who use their vacation days to travel reported receiving a promotion in the last two years compared to those who use some or none of their time to travel.

We need a new way of defining work success

In Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, she makes a case for redefining success in our society. She emphasizes that success shouldn’t be defined by working long hours or not taking any vacation time (hear, hear from working moms everywhere!)

Huffington says, “For far too many of us, vacations often serve only to amplify our stress and busyness and desire to do and accomplish—with our smartphones keeping us fully connected to the world we’ve ostensibly left behind. We all know the feeling of coming back from a vacation more drained than when we set off.”

According to a study by Fierce Inc, half of all employees check in with the office while on vacation, with 13 percent checking in daily. How’s that for a nice, relaxing vacation?

As psychologist Karen Horneffer-Ginter says in Thrive, “Stress is bad for us, yet we wear it as a badge of honor. It is seen as a socially desirable thing to be overworking. We don’t seem to have the same respect for people who work a 40-hour week.” Huffington adds: “This kind of thinking feeds on itself, creating a downward bad habit spiral.”

So, what happened when I didn’t check email for a week

Well, here’s what didn’t happen: Nothing alarming came up. There weren’t any problems that needed to be solved. I didn’t miss out on any amazing opportunities. Basically, the world carried on without me. (What? How dare it?)

Here’s what did happen: I was especially relaxed. I slept well. I was not distracted. I was focused on my family. I stopped and really noticed the beautiful environment around me. I was not pulled into other people’s problems. I didn’t feel like I had to find solutions. I spent time sketching, playing kids’ games, reading magazines, and journaling.

Cindi Leive, former Editor-in-chief of Glamour and Self, also did a one-week “digital detox” and she describes exactly how I felt upon returning home: “We returned from vacation slightly less informed but slightly more blissed out, and more likely to stay Zen in annoying situations because of the little digital detox.”

And Lori Leibovich’s post about her vacation “digital diet” also echoes how I felt on vacation once I set aside the digital distractions: “It felt exhilarating to use my hands for digging tunnels in the sand and turning the pages of a novel instead of just for tapping away on a screen. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I was really seeing my kids. And they were relishing being seen.” Even if you don’t have kids, don’t you owe this to your vacation companions?

Zen and again?

So, will I do a vacation digital detox again? Yes! Do I think everyone should ditch email on vacation? Most definitely.

However, I will say there was one negative in the experience: 1,239 emails to go through upon my return to the office. (Which put a bit of a damper on the post-vacation relaxation feeling!)

November 4, 2016

10-Minute Marketing: Create an email signature

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am
10-Minute Marketing: Create an email signature
With so many emails hitting inboxes, having a signature that includes all of your contact information is crucial. How do you know what to include? Think about how someone who doesn’t know you (or your organization) would connect with you: Would it by phone or in-person? Would they need to see samples of your work? Where are you most active (online, social media)?
Here are a few things to consider including in your email signature:
  • Your full name
  • Organization name
  • Phone number
  • Address (or just city/state)
  • Tagline (or short blurb about what you do)
  • Website
  • Social media links
  • Call to action (link to portfolio, newsletter, blog post)
Most email programs allow you to easily create an email signature. I like HubSpot’s email generator which does all the hard work for you.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Create an email signature.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

August 3, 2016

7 tips for getting email marketing right

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion — Tags: , , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

7 ways to do email marketing the right way

I’m amazed by the amount of spam I receive, specifically email lists I’m added to without my permission by someone who I don’t know. (I use a different email address on my website contact form so I can easily identity when this happens. I know, sneaky…) Today, I got another one of these emails and said to myself: something must be done!

Email marketing is a great way to reach qualified prospects—the key here being the word qualified. Adding people indiscriminately to your mailing list in the hopes of making your list bigger can backfire: your messages will get marked as spam, eventually leading to your account getting closed down.

So, what’s the right way to approach email marketing? Focusing on quality, not quantity is my approach. My list is small but very targeted, so every email newsletter I send results in a reconnection, conversation or new project.

7 tips for getting email marketing right

  1. Keep a clean list: Every now and then, go through and delete contacts on your list who are no longer prospects or have outdated email addresses
  2. Be very careful when adding names: Only add people who have specifically given permission to be added to your list (see #4 & 5 below) or with whom you have worked in the past.
  3. Write for your audience: Make sure your email content is tailored to your list or they may unsubscribe
  4. Have an opt-in freebie on your website: Create a freebie (report, eBook, tipsheet, etc.) for prospects to download in exchange for their email address
  5. Send a cold email: If there is someone you really want to connect with, send them a friendly introductory email with a request to join your list (make sure they will find it useful, see #3)
  6. Give them an out: Make sure your messages always include an easy way to opt-out or unsubscribe
  7. Focus on quality, not quantity: Yes, a huge mailing list sounds tempting, but it only takes one successful connection to generate results, so focus on adding good, qualified prospects rather than increasing your numbers

Are you breaking any of the “rules?” By focusing on quality not quantity, you will quickly see the benefit of having a well-managed email list.

Need help developing your next email marketing campaign? I can help with design and strategy, as well as managing your campaign. Let’s chat!

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July 22, 2015

6 tips for an engaging organization newsletter

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

6 tips for an engaging organization newsletter

One of my favorite ways to keep in touch is through my newsletter. Every time I send one, I inevitably hear back from a client or prospect that has been “reminded” of me.

Would you like to have this same effect with your organization’s newsletter? Read on for my tips for a more engaging newsletter.

  1. Write for your target audience: The first thing to consider when writing a newsletter is: what do your members or supporters want to hear about? What are their questions, pain points or interests?
  2. Keep it short: The days of long newsletters are gone. There’s more inbox clutter nowadays, so you have to keep your message short and to the point.
  3. Create a simple and flexible email template: I highly recommend using one of the online email newsletter services (I personally use and love MailChimp). This allows you to create a template that can be easily adapted for each issue.
  4. Develop a basic editorial calendar: Having a schedule for your newsletter not only helps you stay on-track, but your readers will begin to expect to hear from you (out of sight really does become out of mind!) It can be a simple as an Excel file with monthly send dates and newsletter topics. Hint: make things ever easier and plan topics a few months in advance. See an example editorial calendar.
  5. Keep a file of topic ideas: One of the biggest blogging complaints I hear is: I have nothing to write about. Once you’ve considered your target audience (see #1), the ideas should start to come easier. Now, create a file where you can store all these great ideas (I use the app Evernote).
  6. Send it consistently: Readers tend to engage more with a newsletter that is familiar to them rather than one that is infrequent. I send mine monthly, however depending on your organization (say, if you host weekly events) you may need a more frequent schedule.

So there you have it… you’re on your way to a more engaging newsletter.

Have you put any of these tips in practice? Let me know, I would love to know how it works out for you!

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June 19, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: write an email newsletter

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , — lidia @ 10:30 am

10-Minute marketing: werite an email newsletterI often hear people tell me they dread writing and sending a email newsletter. I, on the other hand, love them. Why? It’s an easy way to stay in touch with clients (I always hear from someone or receive a new project after sending a newsletter).

Also, I have the process down to a system: short lead-in article that links to a blog post, a few callouts about recent newsworthy items.

It wasn’t always this easy for me. I used to spend hours preparing (or agonizing over) a newsletter. Now I can knock one of these out in a half-hour!

Having a clear strategy for what I was trying to accomplish, paired with a simple editorial calendar made all the difference. With that in mind, before you start writing your next newsletter, review your marketing strategy (who are you trying to reach and why) and you’ll find writing so much easier.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Write an email newsletter.

Need help creating an editorial calendar? Download my simple template here (Excel file).

 

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

January 20, 2011

Take control of your email inbox

Filed under: Time Management — Tags: , , — lidia @ 12:21 pm

photo by TheTruthAbout on flickr

If you’re like me, your email inbox is currently out of control. Since one of my goals for 2011 is to keep a tidier inbox, I’ve decided to take charge and hit delete.

Read my latest post on the Creative Freelancer Blog for tactics to control your email inbox.

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See all of my small business posts on the Creative Freelancer Blog here.