Who knew that training clients would come with so much paperwork – particularly before you even get them breaking a sweat?
Who knew that a PT would be living out of their email inbox?

Here’s a strategy + a Chrome plugin to help cultivate deep work, by only checking your inbox when ready.

Now, there’s a huge side to being a personal trainer that is seldom talked about – that monstrous admin.

Obviously, this is the case times about a billion if you are your own boss.
You have business administration, financial record keeping, taxation obligations, and not to mention time working on your business. Let alone finding the time to write a blog post.

I mean, we find the time somewhere, but wouldn’t it be great if we could plug up those time saps? To sit down and do what we actually intend on doing?

You want to get your inbox away from your screen.

When you receive an email, you have to do something with it.
(Admittedly, this is the reason why email marketing works so well – your audience member has to process your message, even if they don’t read it).

Either you delete it, put it in a folder or make a mental note to read it later, or read it and then decide what you want to do with it.
In any case, you are constantly scanning, and subconsciously processing the subject lines and first line text every time you open your inbox.

This is bad.
This is real bad.

We’re going to look at why you need to shut email the hell up, while you’re trying to sit down and do some work that frankly, you probably don’t really want to do anyway.

“Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.”
― Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

*Email comes in* *Blood pressure rises*

If you’re anything like me, you have this deep-rooted habit of keeping your email inbox on your screen at all times. Or at least in a background tab.
If it’s not open, you certainly get pop-ups on your screen, plus a vibration and bing from your phone.

Gone are the days where it was completely normal to leave work at work, and only get back to people during business hours.

Email should never be a code-red.

You need to communicate with your clients and colleagues that if it is dire and urgent (and they expect a response that day) to call you.

At some point, everybody got a smartphone and signed a contract unwittingly that says they’ll always answer everything immediately.

No. Sorry…

Email is for official correspondence (since it’s in writing), keeping in the loop, and ‘conversations’ that don’t need an immediate reply.

Now that we got that out of the way…

Behaviour changes:

  1. Change expectations around email with your colleagues and clients
  2. Disable your notification sound on your phone (and your lock-screen notifications for that matter – you are the master of your own domain).
  3. … what I’m about to talk about in a second.

What you can do:

I’ve talked before about what to do when you’ve got too much on your plate, and you discover that you don’t need to do it all yourself.
But sometimes, you really can’t outsource the work, and instead you gotta slug through it yourself – even if that means doing the paperwork after hours.

I discovered bloody GEM of an browser plugin, while I was doing the research for an article about staying focused on Facebook while managing your business page. It’s called:

Inbox When Ready for Gmail

I promise you that I don’t get any kickbacks from this, other than knowing that some fellow small business builders might actually get sh*t done.

Inbox When Ready allows you to… well.. hide your inbox.

Inbox When Ready

 

At this stage, this only works for users of Gmail (or G Suite for Business) email accounts. It’s a simple browser extension that will hide notifications of new emails, and will completely hide your inbox until you click the ‘Show Inbox’ button.

Brilliant.

It even works for Inbox by Google, which is a separate app, and a pretty nifty way to manage your Gmail inbox. ’Snooze’ emails until a later time or location, smart grouping, nice clean design… but that’s for another time.

Wait, but why?

Hiding the inbox will eliminate any temptation to glance at it (when a notification comes in, or otherwise). This means that you are now in control of when you want to read your emails, rather than that distraction monkey inside of you calling the shots.

When you sit down to work on something, you’ll actually work on it.
If you don’t allow yourself to check your emails until it’s done, then there’s no risk of something new coming in and stealing your attention.

Even if you tell yourself “But it’ll only take me 2 seconds to reply to this.”

Turning it up to 11

Inbox When Ready also has a few advanced features for the hardcore productivity seeker, some of which I use. Namely:

  1. Inbox Lockout Schedule: Your ‘Show Inbox’ button is disabled during this schedule.
    You can set different rules for different days of the week.
    Eg: Mine is locked every day from midnight until 10am + from 6pm onwards; and All day Sundays.Inbox Lockout Schedule
  2. Impulse Check: Set a maximum number of times you can open your inbox today. Inbox When Ready Auto Hide
  3. Time Budget: When you open your emails for the first time each day, decide how long you would like to spend on your emails.
    If you go over, you can still access your emails – but you’ll get a delay penalty (or a warning).Inbox When Ready Time Budget

Another feature Inbox When Ready has that could be quite useful is to hide the notification of categorised emails, such as Promos or Social.

Hide Inbox Category Tab Icons

Final thoughts

Obviously this won’t eliminate the ability for you to check your emails on your smart phone, iPad, or wherever. It will definitely make sitting down to do creative work, client programming, tax stuff (ugh) a lot more distraction-free.

And if you desperately need to get in to your inbox at some point during an auto-lockout feature, you can easily jump in and fix it from the Chrome Extension options.

Do you have any other computer-based productivity hacks that other trainers might find useful?

Reach out to us, or leave a comment below.

 

Happy Training.