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Why You Need to Look at your Outbox, Not your Inbox

We all know the tyranny of the inbox. He is a jealous lover, prone to wild behavior, incredibly possessive, covets your every moment, and won’t shut up. So break up with him.

This British post box may as well be called "The Tower of London."

OK, I get that’s impossible. But it’s vitally important for business development that he doesn’t control your life.

Most incoming email demands reactive behavior. Sometimes you have initiated it, and thus a reply is a good thing. It means the ball on your project is moving forward. But too often, this is not the case. A full inbox means too many people are controlling your attention and schedule.

When my clients are having trouble understanding or finding time for business development, I tell them to check their outbox. If there’s little there beyond the work at hand, it is the quickest barometer I know to indicate they are not taking proactive steps to network and increase their book of business.

I recommend that clients scan their outbox every week to see who they have reached out to. Schedule this as a task. And don’t let your outreach wait until Friday. I may be wrong, but I feel that any business development outreach done on a Friday looks to the recipient as an afterthought. What, you couldn’t get a date for this weekend, so you email me now?

I use part of Sunday afternoon to organize my workweek. I use that time to review the past week, note whom I needed to follow up with on business development, and plan whom I wanted to reach out to in the coming week. Those thirty minutes each week are a vital investment in my sanity; I wake up Monday morning excited to work with my roadmap, not paralyzed by fear of my work pile.

Pick a goal, any goal that is attainable, and attack. If you can only spare 15 minutes, start there. But schedule it and hold to it as if it were a religious ritual. On Friday afternoon, when most of the fires are out, review your outbox to see how you did. Are you pleased with the results? Head out for the day. Not so much? Stay at your desk and decide whom you will reach out to the following week. Enjoy the weekend knowing you have a plan.

Best of luck!

Susan Kostal is a legal marketing and media coach specializing in the Bay Area legal industry. Find more great content on Twitter @skostal.

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