How I eliminated 90% of my email

I know – one of those kind of titles. Except it’s true… and it’s magnificent. I used to be terrified of opening my inbox. It gave me anxiety and Sunday night blues. I’d get up and delay it as long as possible and then tentatively hope there was nothing terrible in there, nothing urgent, nothing too important, nothing that required my reply… nothing to spend the day replying to tens of emails.

And here’s the part I tell you I used to receive between 100 – 150 emails per day. Depending on who you are that’s either a lot or very little. Either way it was too much for me.

If you want to be very good at being a designer, you design all day.

If you want to be known for being an academic, you go and get degrees and do research papers.

If you want to have a birds eye view of your business, be busy learning, step up culture, go forwards, take new directions, expand your creativity into unknown zones…you don’t spend your days writing emails.

You don’t do a lot of things actually, so you can do those things exceptionally. 

So how do I get to that neat little inbox zero (that the OCD part in me feels like patting me joyously on the back for) most days?

Step 1. Archive

I was one of those people whose emails always stayed in their inbox. Between multiple work emails and personal. Read or unread. I always thought that was kind of normal. I tried email folder systems. Sometimes it worked. Often it didn’t because I just ended up searching my inbox for things. Until it started to drive me mental – the mental clutter of knowing I should clean it up, the unread email number always staring at me glaring in it’s red. So I switched over mail client to Airmail and promptly archived 12,000+ emails older than 3 weeks. Literally that means shift, highlight all, drag into archive folder. They’re all still searched whenever I need to find something but I started at a clean slate. I went through the most recent emails, archived everything I’d actioned, and sorted everything else left.

Inbox Zero. Start again.

I promise you, it really is that simple.


Step 2. Your Phone

Remove all email applications from your phone. You’ll stop getting distracted by them and you’ll learn to stop replying so fast and using email as your default communication method.


Step 3. Project Management 

This and Slack have made the biggest impact on my emails. I analyzed the emails I was getting on a daily basis and they largely fell into these categories (in order of relevance) ::

  • Client emails
  • Internal / team / partner emails
  • Newsletters from products bought through the company card
  • Interview requests, workshops, collaborations etc
  • Other

A good 70% was coming from the top 2.

After researching, working with and playing around with many of the tools I landed on Trello for clients (and we use it for a lot of things internally too). It’s visual, it’s easy and there isn’t really a learning curve so it suits the people we work with who are already overburdened.

Creating a template board we use for each project we are then able to track all project milestones and specific items in there with checklists, comments, attachments etc. At any time we know where everyone is at and we can eliminate a huge number of emails through comments on the relevant Trello cards. It’s much quicker than email (no formalities, just jump in and say your thing), you can quickly tag anybody else, somebody else on your team can comment to answer and everything is tracked in very logical sections so each card has it’s purpose unlike emails which end up a jumble of varying items.


Step 4. Slack

I jumped on the Slack bandwagon back when it was in Beta. I didn’t quite know what I was looking for but it turned out to be a bunch of guys with a gaming start-up that didn’t work (how many love stories start that way?). I wasn’t that into it originally. I remember trying to work out how it would benefit me or anyone else and wasn’t all that convinced. Until, probably in a moment of pure frustration, I decided to really try it just for internal communications and stick with it. And it worked. A channel for the team and amongst team members – those emails were just immediately gone.

And so I decided to use it with clients – a channel per client. Anything outside of the project specific items in Trello could then be inside our Slack channel. Quick questions, a strategy jam, clarifying what the UX flow was, setting dates and checking in. All there. Now even our partners use it – our accountants are on Slack, it’s glorious.

People often ask me if that isn’t just a replacement for email, that it’s just the same? It’s not. Slack works in real time so you can just pop in, ask or reply and leave. You don’t need the formalities. You don’t need the structuring. It’s a real conversation in one logical place with everyone who needs to be involved. Somebody can reply immediately and you can converse or somebody can jump in an hour later and then somebody again 2 hours later and the conversation just keeps going and flowing. You can drop in files, integrate applications (and emails even), and intelligently search. Also, brevity is sexy (this coming from the woman who was known for long emails). It’s helped to totally curb that. By being focussed and efficient, it’s cut out a huge amount of time – and all those emails. 

Slack also has an amazing phone app so if you do feel lost without your email client – here is your fix.

I use Slack for a helluva lot more these days (I’ll run through it in a post soon) and it’s now become an ecosystem from wherein a-lot-of-work instead becomes a-lot-easier.

Sidenote :: if you’re in a corporate, you’re in good company – teams at Samsung, Deloitte & NASA use Slack.


Step 5. Notify Me

All good things are still subject to our human tendencies. So schedule in your email checking times and set up your notifications properly. Unless you’re in a role where it is your sole focus to be answering emails all day (i.e that is what you’re competing on or the most important step to getting to where you want to go), then shut down your email inbox and open it at predetermined times (i.e block 1 hour of emailing in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon). It’ll help you to move communications into better areas where you can, keep your replies brief, necessary, kind and simple and not disturb your flow the rest of the day.

Same goes for notifications. You can set it up so you only get alerted when you specifically are tagged, by way of example. Or turn them off altogether and access when you purposefully make the time to.


Step 6. Unsubscribe

I have a seperate ‘junky’ email for things I’ve signed up to in the past (which gets a scan about once a quarter). My work emails are not the place for this but I often found once I’d purchased something for the business I’d land on newsletters. So hit that little unsubscribe on every email like that you receive (rather than simply deleting it like I did…because just like Aunt Mildred*, they keep coming back week after week) or use


Step 7. Water your plants

These 5 thinking patterns or habits have helped me tremendously.

  • The faster you reply, the more people expect fast replies. Set your boundaries – if it’s not changing the world, it probably doesn’t need for you to interrupt the work that actually needs to get done, right this minute.
  • In the corporate world if you leave an email for a little while you tend to get another one saying they solved the problem. Turns out it often works out the same in business.
  • Is it important or is it urgent?
  • There is war in Syria. And lots of other horrible things happening around the world. Is that email really that big a deal?
  • Plants take you outside. Away from your computer. You breathe real, oxygen filled air. It’s peaceful. And it’s not email. It’s good to step away and shut all communications for the night (plus lovers, music, food… and probably kids, require attention).


I could write entire posts about the benefits of each of these areas – particularly Slack & a project management tool. There’s improved internal communication, no more lost files, actually effective meetings, beautiful integrations (i.e every time there is a comment on a Trello card in that specific board it can update you in the Slack channel or starring an item in Slack adds it to your Todoist list), better communications with clients, longer term relationships with clients because you’re always at hand for them right there, no more email anxiety, better team involvement for remote teams & initiatives for the group…and little bots that do things like process expenses, get everyone up from the desks, congratulate & check in with people, give you analytics at your whim and a ridiculous amount more. For the few emails you have left, you can even have them land in Slack and reply to them.

I now receive about 7-12 emails per day.

Occasionally email still has it’s place.

It’s just not a time consuming space.

*I don’t have an Aunt Mildred and I haven’t read Harry Potter or an old English novel lately. But it felt right to say it.

What would you pay?

What would you pay for that opportunity? Entrepreneurs creative business workshops

I stared at my wardrobe. All the clothes in there I never wore but kept for some reason as if to point out, hey, if you look into my closet, you’ll find a variety of options in here. I’m an equal opportunist for clothes I’d say. Maybe I’d wear it to a fancy event one day. Maybe, in an act of fashion science, it would look good on me next time even though the last seven times I’d pulled it on, I stared in the mirror exasperated and tugged it right back off again. Maybe because I need to justify that … Keep reading the juiciness!

The science of persistence

The science of persistence the identity website design business entrepreneurs

“It is more likely that there are numerous universes…” “Unless God put a wall behind ours”, one Brian stated. “Or Donald Trump does”, the other Brian quickly quipped in return and the audience began laughing. This was part of a discussion that elegantly skimmed across a whole range of ideas through string theory, quantum mechanics, relativity and the recently observed gravitational waves. And those gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein 100 years ago – they’ve rolled themselves into our world. The world you and I orbit where certain bits of science become illuminating, fascinating and popular. If you’ve no idea what … Keep reading the juiciness!

Selling what you do

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 10.51.17 AM

“We create dashboards for managers” “We’re solving traffic congestion for parents” “We teach people how to sell authentically” “I coach women through relationships” The pitch. The elevator line. The value proposition. The ‘this is what we do’. The summary. Whatever you want to call it, these are just a few lines amongst hundreds I’ve heard over the years. And they’re all missing a crucial element (or more). The benefit. Actual, tangible, results.  What’s the outcome? It’s great that you do any one of those things but to what end? How is that benefitting the end user/economic buyer? That’s the end … Keep reading the juiciness!

Everything is Possible in New York

“We can’t be part of the tradeshow.” Why not I asked? “Because it’s in a few months and there’s no way we can cart over all the set-up across the world and make it cost effective.” It’s New York, I said. You can just hire it. I bet they have a solution for that already. Anything is possible in New York.  A few minutes of googling later and there were a whole lot of options. It’s possible in New York because it’s filled with people who are creating, and crucially, actually providing, that very thing you’re after. Create it. Make … Keep reading the juiciness!

I’ve been falling for my own excuses

The Identity Lis Dingjan Excuses Creative entrepeneurs

That’s a fairly bitter pill to swallow. I’m the ‘no-exuse’ woman. I hear them all the time and I find them painful to listen to. I can’t do this because of that. I can’t do Y because of Z. It’s too difficult because I can list 10 other things involved. 99% of the time it’s an excuse created in your own mind so you don’t have to try. So you can’t fail. So you don’t have to put the effort in. So you’re not losing because really you just can’t. So it’s not your fault. So it doesn’t sound simple. … Keep reading the juiciness!

Why don’t we just make it easier? (with a few hacks)

The Identity Lis Dingjan Systems for Business & Creatives

Every single month when I get my period it surprises me. That means I get surprised by that 12 times a year. Why? Because my months are so freaking jam packed and there’s so much going on in my head at any given point in time I literally never, ever remember when I last had it. Even if it was 3 days ago. Sometimes when I get a few stomach pangs I think ta-da I must be getting it! Clever me just intuitively knowing! Days later it still hasn’t arrived. Do you know what that is other than too much … Keep reading the juiciness!

The thing about money

The Identity Lis Dingjan - Money, Entrpereneurs & Business - Making Profit is Good

I was at a food start-ups & products event the other night and money was consistently the talk of the town. Usually those types of businesses come with much higher start up costs than service based businesses so it’s not a taboo topic at all (unlike most service based business events/conferences). Seed funding, angel investors, bank loans, accelerators, remortgages and huge savings are all just part and parcel (& necessary) of going for the dream. It’s a normal part of the conversation. And although we might not all need the capital that the fast expanding (& awesome!) Uber needs, all … Keep reading the juiciness!

Losing it


I haven’t blogged for a while. Partly because I’ve never been so busy in my life. This little business has been growing and I’ve been trying to stay on top of it all whilst being heavily involved in some amazing client projects. It’s been – and continues to be – quite a juggle. And I’m not doing it perfectly. There are definitely a few growing pains. But it’s coming along. So I took to the priorities and pushed everything else aside. No blogging but also no other businesses, no other projects (other than BrandBurst), no course development and even dropped … Keep reading the juiciness!

Welcome to the Grind

Do the work - its hard - motivation entrepreneur grind work hard the identity lis dingjan design

This is an open letter to my friends, old and new (that’s you right?) because I love you. And because this shit is meant to be hard. I see, hear, dance, play and otherwise delight with so many people who want to change their life. They don’t want to be chained to a desk. They want to make their own hours. They want their own freedom. They want the ability to enjoy life without having to write in a gratitude journal every day to convince themselves that their lives are amazing. They long, ache and desire for more. And yet … Keep reading the juiciness!

What does it take to like yourself?

The Identity Brisbane Website Design Development Lis Dingjan Self Worth Away From Facebook

We place our self worth on a hell of a lot of external factors. The Facebook likes and comments. The tweet replies. The Instagram loves. The stats on our daily website visitors. Blog comments. Emails from strangers. Compliments from friends. Praise from clients. The fact that we cannot possibly go on a 2 week holiday without checking our email or phone because what the hell if someone needs us? Or what if you opened your email, facebook or text messages after that time and not one person had reached out? Not one. In some form they all tell us how … Keep reading the juiciness!

I’ve turned down more than 20k of work this month

Being Selective with Clients - Finding the right clients

Which is kind of really hard to write on paper (well, computer). Because I run a business – and that’s a lot of money. 2 – 3 years ago I would have taken these projects on. I wasn’t selective from the start (like some other incredible people I admire such as the very recently stumbled upon Sean Wes). And that’s ok. I needed to do a huge volume of work. I needed to bridge the gap between my taste; my vision, and my skills. I had a hell of a lot of learning to do. I also needed the lessons. … Keep reading the juiciness!

How to Build an eCourse or Membership Site

How to Build an eCourse or Membership Site

Have something a little wicked brewing in your mind for an online course or membership site? Wahoo! A lot of people come to me with a course idea they’ve got (which is awesome!). Although it’s never passive income (it’s not a set and forget and hope for the best), most people hope that once they’ve got all the content it can just be managed with a little time each month and there’s a flow of income. Which it definitely can to a point if you have the audience and marketing skills to do this, and this is also very dependent … Keep reading the juiciness!

The Great Intern Debate

Online Business Creative Entrepreneurs To Hire an Intern Pay or Not

I’ve noticed quite a bit of talk on interns in the last year. I’ve even received some messages about people wanting to intern with me (truly flattered and I love the passion and hustle) and I’ve spoken in the somewhat secret ‘entrepreneur’ hallways about internships. I’m for paying people. Even when it’s legal to have unpaid work, if they’re helping my business, bottom line, profits etc, I believe that at the least, time should be compensated! And quite simply, that’s the law. I won’t get into ethics, opinions or morals. It’s just the way the law is. If you’re genuinely … Keep reading the juiciness!

I Left the Corporate World & Now I Want to Go Back

On Lonliness Entrepreneurship Entrepreneur Lonely

I know right, whaaaaaaaaaaat?! But some days this running your own business thing can be damn difficult. You had the honeymoon phase of how great it was to not wake up to alarm and then hustle in your pyjamas. And then you hit a few brick walls. The income isn’t steady, it’s often freaking scary, you don’t have a consistent work space you come into every day and some days you just do not want to work from the couch or cafe (because why oh why do they not have wifi or damn power outlets and why hasn’t apple invented … Keep reading the juiciness!

Fact. You Just Can’t Please Everyone.

You can't please everyone - The Identity - Website Design - Lis Dingjan

Even Kirsty and Phil can’t. And they are location, location, location specialists. A good 18 seasons in. I’m addicted to that (and Grand Designs) and sometimes I’ll watch an episode where people desperate to buy their home just don’t like anything they’re shown. And consequently don’t buy. Even when it’s the absolute best they can get right then. Despite the specific criteria, the one on one cafe chats, the ability to read their faces and reactions in person, in the house. Despite the fact that Kirsty and Phil have a team, are experts in their field with a lifetime of … Keep reading the juiciness!

10 Businesses Just Lost My Money Tonight – Did Yours?

Website Design Cupcakes Bakery

Whenever I say design is important there are inevitably people who come back and say but what about Steve Pavlina? and Craiglist? And although I get it, is has an easy answer! Those sites were born when the internet – let’s face it – was crap. When we were all really just cottoning onto it and jumping on the bandwagon. They built loyal and strong audiences through their content and usefulness.  I’m willing to bet with a redesign that those sites would be do much, much, much better. And that’s where good design comes in. The 20th century form follows … Keep reading the juiciness!

Are you really an entrepreneur?

Richard Branson Entrepreneur - What is an Entrepreneur

I’m not. I really dislike that word in the way it’s bandied around so much but haven’t quite found a better one yet. I’m utterly uncomfortable with being called that. Sometimes solopreneur takes the edge off. But ever so slowly I’m not just the only one in my business anymore. For me an entrepreneur is someone who has ideas that solve a pain point for people, or fill a gap in the market (even if you didn’t know it existed) and then executes them. They may start the business but after it’s growth they do not manage it. That’s what … Keep reading the juiciness!

Entrepreneurship is Kicking my Butt

Entrepreneurship is kicking my butt via

And not because every time I write that word I chide myself, the spelling bitch, on looking at it thinking, is that correct? Also not because I hate the word entrepreneur. I’m not Richard Branson. There’s your entrepreneur. I’m still looking for a better word. But because it’s whipping my ass. Seriously. I think I’m maintaining my weight just because of the constant hustle inside my veins. I’m not working out because I have no time. Or rather, I’m not making the time for it, because then I fall behind on work and sleep for just 2 hours that night. … Keep reading the juiciness!

Everyone online needs to take a big fat break and remember there’s wars in Syria and shit

Everyone online needs to take a big fat break and remember there's wars in Syria and shit

Seriously. I know your business is your life. Believe me I know. I’m all up in my business ALL THE TIME. It never ends. You’re doing client work. Creating products. Wrangling with your never ending inbox. Tearing your hair out because no idea hasn’t already been done. Unless you just patented finger holes in dutch biscuits and became a millionaire (yes this has happened – he’s a genius). Re-branding. Launching. Comparing, comparing, comparing. Getting passive aggressive. Taking on too much. Hustling. Wanting more clients. Trying to find more clients. Wanting more time to enjoy life. To actually kiss your partner … Keep reading the juiciness!

The be all isn’t Marie Forleo

Just start your business

As a designer, one of the most common requests I receive from women is ‘I’d like a site like Marie Forleo’. Which these days tends to illicit this response in me..urrrrgggghhh. Marie’s site is clean and simple, absolutely. It’s a great design and it’s been well thought out. It can be a style inspiration. But everybody’s business is different and you do not want to end up with a site just like hers. If your sole focus isn’t being a blogger, you’re better off having a few other interesting things on your home page. You might have a different call … Keep reading the juiciness!

When you’re not sure what the hell you’re supposed to be doing when you have a million (estimated) passions

Don't know what business or passion to pick up? via

So if you’re anything like me, you may be feeling one of these right now… …you feel a bit unhappy with your business. You’re not sure why but something just doesn’t feel quite right. …you’ve lost the motivation, inspiration, persistence and determination to keep on going. Out of all the words ending in ‘tion’ you’re mostly feeling frustration and desperation. …you’re not really getting clients you love working with. You fear you’ve made a terrible mistake. Is it always going to be this hard? …you’re thinking crazy hard about this business thing but you just can’t seem to get started. … Keep reading the juiciness!

Why are we so desperate for balance??

The Identity - Lis Dingjan - I'm Not Looking for Balance, I'm Looking to Live via

The ole work/life balance. Corporations go on and on about it but don’t really give a toss. Even though they really should (it would save them billions). Mums talk about trying to achieve balance between adult life and babies. Entrepreneurs, small biz owners and solopreneurs are forever trying to balance a million things at once. And then breaking down when one area (or multiple) of their lives are crumbling down around them. It’s coming up constantly around me. In blog posts, in wonderful entrepreneur groups I’m in, in conversations with friends. WHY? Why are we all on the search for … Keep reading the juiciness!

The #1 Way to Make Money (or how to find revenue streams & business ideas)

Where there is frustration, there is business via

There’s one thing I constantly tell myself and it’s this… Where there’s frustration, there’s a business. Do you struggle coming up with a business that doesn’t feel ergh over done? Or a product that people would love that’s not just another general eBook about making money online? I’m fortunate, on any given day I’ll have at least one business idea that I’d love to pursue (ohh to have all the time, money and help in the world!). In a brainstorming session with a friend we may have 10 by the time we’re finished. The other day I was absolutely aching … Keep reading the juiciness!

How to write copy that makes you a millionaire (and awesome examples of nailing it)

How to write copy that makes you a millionaire via The Best Product Descriptions

Full disclosure, you may not become a millionaire straight away. BUT get onto this pronto and you’ll be well on your way there. Because copy counts. The words you’re writing on your website, on your Facebook and on your Twitter matter. You’re helping people but you’re also a business. You’re trying to sell shit after all (and of course it’s not shit. It’s amazing). But you need words that sell. That dance. That glitter. That get people excited. Or make people laugh. That make your products and services irresistible. So we just have to have it. And the best way … Keep reading the juiciness!

You have permission to do what you love (even if it’s not perfect)

What’s stopping you from starting that blog or business or jumping ship from the world you’re in to pursue the things you love? Are you afraid of failing or that you haven’t got everything perfectly in place to launch? I totally get that feeling. I’m with you. Except I promise you it will never be perfect before you start. And you will always be tweaking. And that’s a perfectly good thing! If you’re thinking about getting that business up and running are you letting any of the following stop you? You’re not sure how the hell you’re supposed to make … Keep reading the juiciness!

What Fruity Tea Told Me About Why You’ll Win the Game of Business & Why You Won’t

Courtesy of Bean on Facebook

I have recently spent many morning of my week at Cafe Bean and whilst luxuriously working on my laptop and studying for my international law exams (the joys) I have observed the bustling of activities around me in this cute, underground cafe. I can also tell you why your business will succeed (and how easy it can be) or why it will fail simply by people watching. The owner of this lovely place is a twenty something South African who after travelling the world and living in London, has settled in Australia and launched his dream of opening a cafe. … Keep reading the juiciness!

An Ode to the Dreamers

An ode to the dreamers

Here’s to those brave enough to dream… those who refuse to settle for what’s commonplace just because they’re told it’s so who work their butts off with no immediate reward who are stressed, anxious and worried because they know things others don’t here’s to those who believe they can change the world when everyone tells them they’re mad they don’t know the crazy ones are the only ones that ever do so here’s to the ones who put social good before corporate greed and private gains who may stumble but in bettering a life, never fail here’s to not knowing … Keep reading the juiciness!