A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

The Riskiest, Most Radical 30-Day Trial I've Ever Attempted?

30-day trial Something has to change, because this is killing me. It’s taking over my life, and it’s slowly but surely sucking my soul away. And yet, getting rid of it may prove to be one of the most difficult feats I’ve ever attempted.

Before I tell you what it is, let me share with you a typical day in my life as of right now. I want to show you exactly what the hell is that I’m going through.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Whoosh Traffic is doing amazingly well. I’ve created a business that is earning well into 6 figures a year in just 8 months, which is extraordinary. I couldn’t have done that without my team (which now includes 8 full-time staff members, and my super-cool co-founder Parnell) and my amazing community and customers (yes, that’s you!) So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

And rest assured–Whoosh Traffic isn’t going anywhere. In fact, we’re growing quickly (and we’re hiring a Python programmer, so if you know anyone with relevant experience, have that person email jobs@whooshtraffic.com with his/her resume, and Parnell will get back to him/her.)

Neither is this blog going anywhere. But you may have noticed that I haven’t written in a while. That’s because of my aforementioned nemesis. It’s choking my available free time, my creativity, and my energy. I have had enough.

My Typical Day

My typical day goes like this: I wake up around 8:30AM or perhaps 9:15AM if it was a late night. (I usually get 8-9 hours of sleep a night, and I don’t use an alarm clock.) Then I check my email. The next few hours are absorbed with trying to get my inbox to zero, which I am pretty much never successful at. I also may have client consultations–as I do a 1-on-1 30-minute search engine optimization strategy call with every customer who signs on to Whoosh Traffic.

Late morning is also where I try to schedule interviews. I’ve been on several podcasts lately, including Shift Your Consciousness and Tech Zing Live.

Sometime in there, I eat breakfast and take a shower. It’s usually lunch time by then. In the afternoon, I focus on creative work. This is where I often work on Whoosh Traffic. Occasionally, I have doctors’ appointments and other miscellaneous tasks in here, though Marilyn, our housekeeper, takes care of most of our routine tasks.

About once a week, in the afternoon, Parnell comes over and we have a team meeting, where we sit down at the dining room table and hammer out what we want to work on at Whoosh Traffic.

Then, in the evening, it’s back to email. Sometimes I will work on it for 3+ hours at night. Unfortunately, email is like an annoying pest that never goes away (and that’s not to be offensive to anyone who has ever emailed me–it’s an aggregate feeling.) I have an aggressive filtering system set up in Google Apps, so I never get email list emails, product shipping notices, or anything delivered to my inbox that isn’t pretty personal. And I get upwards of 40+ emails a day that need to be replied to. Most of them can’t be replied to with a sentence, either. I have to spend time thinking about it.

Email is a weed that has taken over my life. It is a cancer that kills my creativity, eats my free time, and demands my attention. And through all that, I never feel “complete” about it. Inbox zero only lasts for a few hours at most–until someone else emails me with a question and I feel obligated to reply.

Although it’s popular to declare “email bankruptcy” and simply archive all the emails in your inbox and start over, that is not the problem I have. The problem I have is that email does not stop. It is like a sewage line being pumped directly into my house that I have to wade through every morning.

And I have had enough.

So, for the next 30 days, I’m not going to check my email. And I’m going to take additional steps so that–hopefully–I will never have to check email again.

I’m that fed up with email. And while I totally understand that you may not really “get” the situation I am in, I at least ask you to understand that email is crushing me like a giant weight. I wake up every morning and think “Ugh, email.” I feel overwhelmed every time I look at my inbox. I get chronically depressed because my inbox is never zero, there is always more email to respond to, and I don’t ever feel like I’m doing a good enough job at responding to emails. (Some of you can attest to my complete lack of followup; I have emails that I haven’t responded to in weeks or months, and I know you’ve followed up. It’s not you, it’s me.)

Email makes me feel like a compete failure, every day of my life.

While my previous thought pattern tells me email was required, I’ve now gotten so tired of it that I don’t care if it costs me money, lost opportunities, or anything else.

The Steps I’m Taking

Here are the steps I am taking immediately:

  1. I am setting up an autoresponder for erica@erica.biz that explains this and links to this blog post. Officially, this email break will be through July 5. Unofficially, I don’t ever want to have to deal with email again. I will reassess this 30-day trial in early July (most likely publicly, here on erica.biz!)
  2. I will be using our support desk to reply to both Whoosh Traffic pre-sales and support emails. And I will also be training my assistant, Susan, to reply to many of these emails, so I can detach from that loop of endless replies as well (though fortunately, our Whoosh Traffic customers pretty much rock and the volume on the support desk email is pretty low.)
  3. I will set up a private email address that only three people know: Parnell, Brian, and Susan. They can “triage” there–if something comes through the support desk that they can’t handle, or if they have a business issue for me that isn’t urgent, they can email me there. All three of them are cool about only emailing me when they really need something, so that volume should be low as well.
  4. I will engage Brian, our designer, to implement live chat clearly on Whoosh Traffic’s website as a way for potential customers to contact us for pre-sales questions. It’s far easier to answer questions in live chat than it is in an endless stream of back-and-forth emails.
  5. I will continue to be available via Twitter and Facebook, and I will check each of those at least daily (although if you spam me there, expect that I will block you.)
  6. What Do I Expect to Accomplish?

    I expect that getting rid of email will free up 2-3 hours a day of my time, or at least 20 hours a week (since I often work on email on weekends as well.) My goal with dumping email is that I will have more time to work on this blog, as well as Whoosh Traffic.

    I feel strongly that I can provide much better value to this world by writing blog posts than I can when I’m caught up in an endless stream of email replies. And I’ll be able to better serve Whoosh Traffic customers when their emails don’t get caught up with a bunch of other stuff in my inbox.

    So–this is it–I’m done with email. And if you’ve ever emailed me, don’t feel guilty! (Especially if you’ve shared a success story–those are the emails I enjoy most.) I’m taking the steps now that I should have taken a long time ago. By doing this, I will be able serve you better–I will be writing more here and less in my email client.

    If you can pull one lesson from this post, it’s this: Nothing is required in this life. If something is causing you emotional agony but making you money, it’s not worth it. Forego both and clear the space in your life, then focus your energy on finding something awesome to fill that space.

    I’m making a radical change in my life to create the space I need to serve you better. Yep, it’s not what other people do, but fuck what other people do. I’m doing what I need to do to make this world a better place. And I know in my heart that this is the right thing to do.

    I’m back, world. Spread the word…I’m ready to start blogging again. And I do believe erica.biz–and my life–will be better than ever because I had the courage to admit that I was failing and make this change.

    Special thanks to Pamela Slim for helping me figure out what’s most important.

    Recommended Reading:

    • Shift Your Consciousness podcast interviewed me. Check it out!
    • Tech Zing Live interviewed me. This is actually almost completely different content from my Shift Your Consciousness interview, so definitely grab this one too, especially if you’re interested in hearing about my childhood.
    • How Do All Those “Idiots” Make So Much Money? Does it drive you nuts that some idiot with a terrible product seems to be constantly making sales, when you know your product is better? Read this post…

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I'm Erica Douglass.
After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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