What is your relationship with your email? If you are like me—it is complicated.

I love email

I love email. I can love receiving it. There is still a small rush in seeing the number in parentheses increase on the tab hosting my email. Could there be something unexpected—a friend reaching out from out of the blue, a new social impact opportunity, or collaboration idea from an unlikely source. I can love sending email, too. Writing is one of my favorite ways of articulating ideas, and so crafting an email can create a special kind of satisfaction and fulfillment.

I get overwhelmed by email

That being said, I can feel weighted down by an overload of email—I think of all of the people who I haven’t gotten back to, the emails I am behind on, many messages I haven’t had a chance to open. As an entrepreneur, these emails can range from requests for podcast interviews to marketing opportunities to offers to feature sponsored content to cold emails from service providers, and everything in between. The emails are important to process, but can create a serious feeling of overwhelm. And, instead of getting through more email, I notice my mind shifts focus to other projects completely.

And then there are the email newsletters

Increasingly prevalent in my stream of email have been email newsletters. Oh, the newsletters. I have spent a good part of my professional career writing, strategizing, and distributing content, including email newsletters. It is an incredible way to connect with people who are in our ‘tribes’ through direct notes and updates. At Innov8social, we have the #goanddo guide, an email listserv that has updates on Innov8social and a smattering of event postings and job and internship opportunities in social impact. Newsletters have been a way to connect with our tribe.

However, I am afforded another view as an email newsletter recipient.

Along my social entrepreneurship journey, I have subscribed to an email newsletter, or two, or over a hundred. It happens innocently enough, you attend an event or engage with a website and think “sure, why not subscribe—at least I’ll know the latest news. And delivered right to my inbox! What could be better?!” The convenience and feeling of connection of being part of a community and receiving news is thrilling. Each newsletter arrival is like a small tap on the shoulder, “psst, this just in” or “oh hello there, I have something to say” or “excuse me, I know you are doing that, but look at me,” or “no rush, I’ll just be hanging out here in bold font until you have a chance to check me out.” What started as a feeling of being part of an inner crowd of a website or initiative, when scaled, can feel like a futile attempt to win at Tetris when pieces are piling up faster than you can put them away.

And many listservs can be a bit deceiving—because they come in the form of follow-ups to a place you visit, something you purchased, or related to an event you attended. They may feel like account-related updates, but actually work like a listserv. Over time, these messages come to the inbox on equal footing with and often adjacent to business and client messages and can dilute focus.

Overwhelm is real for entrepreneurs

We may not agree on everything related to entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, but news stories, anecdotes, and studies show us that entrepreneurial overwhelm is real. We knew that finding a viable business model, finding partners, and scaling were all par for the course for entrepreneurs. But now, we can add fighting overwhelm.

And feelings of overwhelm don’t happen at just one stage in the entrepreneurial journey—but they pivot and scale too. We have to be vigilant about actively taking steps to reduce feelings of overwhelm so we can focus on the things that matter most—including our work, physical and mental health, and our loved ones.

Hacking email overwhelm: how might we make email better

As an avid communicator-a-la writing, I noticed that one of the key sources of overwhelm is my email. And, I decided to try to hack it.

Over the past year I have polled my social media communities, asked friends, and tried different techniques to create a new strategy for organizing email. This has included incredibly helpful new practices and tools such as customizing labels and tabs in Google email, adding Streak as a CRM overlay to Google mail, and using Boomerang to help re-surface important messages.

These steps have been helpful as post-inbox measures. But if you forget to organize for a few days, your inbox can again fall into disarray, giving path for overwhelm to creep up once more. I realized, that the next level of ‘hacking’ would come from exploring pre-inbox solutions.

From all of this, I recently tried a radical life experiment

So, just as I created a practice around decluttering physical belongings which helped me reduce the things I own, store, and carry by over 70% last year (more on that in another post : ), I decided to unsubscribe. Radically.

Save a few key email newsletters, I have been unsubscribing, to the tune of over 100 email newsletters.

Why and how I unsubscribed

This experiment has included email newsletters from individuals and organizations I adore, respect, and value. I know as an email newsletter sender, we take newsletter unsubscribes incredibly seriously. Beyond the slight heart palpitations that (still) occur each time an edition of the #goanddo guide newsletter is sent out, the next wave of anxiety comes when checking how many unsubscribes followed the mailing—and then second-guessing why a person unsubscribed.

I didn’t want my attempt to reduce overwhelm to create overwhelm or anxiety for content creators, nor make it feel like I don’t value their work.

So, when possible and appropriate, I unsubscribe and then under “reason” I select “other” and write a brief note such as the following:

“I value your work and content. Am simplifying my inbox to sidestep overwhelm : ) If there are any ways to collaborate or co-create, please don’t hesitate to reach out directly. Warm Regards, Neetal, www.innov8social.com

I hope that giving an honest reason may provide the contextual explanation that being a mere statistic of an unsubscriber cannot convey.

What I learned from unsubscribing from 100+ newsletters

I have learned a lot from this process and wanted to share while the observations are fresh and in case they can be helpful to you.

1. Email can be a form of digital clutter

Even when filtered, archived, and labeled, email newsletter can still be clutter

It’s like having a storage unit. You store things and you feel better because you’re organized. But you are paying for that space–not just with your pocketbook, but with the mental energy of still owning and taking care of things that you might not even need.

2. It’s okay to unsubscribe

In this process of simplifying, I had to give myself permission to unsubscribe. In first part, it was a major change in operating procedure to see new newsletters and instead of thinking, “okay, mental note that I need to get to that” to thinking “let me unsubscribe for right now.” In order to focus on what matters most and become better versions of ourselves, it’s okay to unsubscribe. I think a calmer and more focused mind can also help connect us more meaningfully to other content creators, thinkers and doers in our space. I have made it okay to unsubscribe from newsletters, and also okay for subscribers to unsubscribe from Innov8social’s.

3. No one will unsubscribe for you

When I recently spent time at our family home I realized that my Mom was still receiving snail mail—twelve years after she passed away. Maybe I secretly thought there was a special alert system that would automatically let agencies, companies, marketing organizations of someone’s passing—especially after a number of years. The tough part was thinking that all of these years my dad regularly receives these mailings addressed to my mom.

Similarly, I realized that no one is going to magically unsubscribe us from our digital listservs when we are not around to receive them. Some listservs regularly prune and preen their lists, removing subscribers who do not open or who “don’t respond to this email”— but those that do are few and far between.

And that started weighing on me. If I feel overwhelmed with email clutter in my living days, it’s definitely not something I want to continue receiving after.

4. You can request/find the information in other ways

One of the tenets that guides my social media strategy to this day, and is something I focus on with my clients, came from Gary Vaynerchuk in his famous 2008 TED Talk. He iterated and reiterated that we, as content creators, need to be where our audience is—and not the other way around.

Extend that to email newsletters, and best practices would mean that web versions of email newsletters are also being distributed via social media—a practice that enables us to view, read, share, and enjoy—but not store, these important updates.

5. You might feel mentally and physically lighter, and ‘new’ again

I kid you not when I say I have felt mentally clearer and even subconsciously lighter from a cleaner inbox experience. Also, the simplified inbox makes me feel the kind of excitement and curiosity I felt when I first launched Innov8social—and I have noticed that I have had new ideas around content and partnerships.

6. Less email = more focus

This clarity has allowed me to focus on clients, potential opportunities, and following up with greater ease, and even more joy. Just as negative or white space can make graphic design more appealing and call to actions more pronounced, so too can negative email space help to create a sense of calm and renewed focus.

7. You can always re-subscribe

Another thing I have seen is just like every part of a Business Model Canvas is essentially a ‘hypothesis’ to be proven or disproven as an entrepreneur– so is unsubscribing.

In case you miss a newsletter, you can always re-subscribe. For me, I have a feeling that once I create a system in which I can regularly zero out my inbox, I can re-incorporate a few email newsletters without overwhelm.

8. There has to be a better way 

This deep dive into hacking email has made me think of technology-based solutions.

Gmail introduced the concept of ‘snoozing’ emails which is a positive start. But, what about being able to automatically delete emails after a period of time?

For example, I would love the ability to tag email newsletters to automatically delete after a specified time. Though a post-inbox solution, the automatic deletion would ensure that they would not go the path of becoming digital clutter.

Additionally, this would be excellent for calendar reminder emails too—which are incredibly important prior to an event, but can lose nearly all value after the scheduled event.

We are evolving. So too can our communication solutions.

Using an innovation mindset, I have to believe that just as email and email newsletters originally came to be, presumably as communication solutions, we are merely at the next stage where they have become incredibly powerful tools that are now in need of solutions to continue to reach their impact potential.

Curious to learn how you streamlined your inbox, create processes to reduce overwhelm, and zero out your inbox!

 

Tips from the community (updated)

  • Tash Jeffries of HireKind mentioned unroll.me
  • David of Innative mentioned using Slack or Asana for project and team communications + quickly assessing emails as soon as they come in (versus letting them sit in inbox)

 

what I have learned about courage

We don’t always connect the dots between our personal lives and career, even when things can make much more sense when we do.

On this occasion of what would have been my Mom’s 65th birthday, I want to connect a few dots.

Dubbed the “Indian Martha Stewart” by her friends, my Mom was always experimenting with new ways to do things, prepare recipes, and innovate. She loved and sought to excel in nearly every part of life. Her diagnosis of cancer, fight, and passing 12 years ago impacted nearly every aspect of our family’s lives.

And it also gave me a new relationship to fear and courage. I learned that courage is made easier when you have little to fear. Saying goodbye to one of the most important people in our lives forced me to confront one of my greatest fears. When we come face-to-face with a fear and must find a way through it, one of the unintended consequences is the neutralizing of that fear.

what I have learned about courage

 

I have spent the better part of my professional life striving to create and co-create a meaningful career in social impact — a space that wasn’t even a known term when I was in college and graduate school. It has, at times, been the source of uncertainty and challenge, and an opportunity to face fear and find courage.

As I think back to my Mom confronting the fear of fighting a disease she could not see — I feel her courage. In thinking through more than a decade in the lives of our family, extended family, and friends in which we had to accept the finality of her loss and find ways to move forward — I feel our collective courage. In thinking back just six months to the unexpected lymphoma diagnosis of my sweet 8-year-old pup and the numerous rounds of chemo she endured and the uncanny similarities between her journey and passing and my Mom’s — I feel her courage, and mine.

And then if I look, with the same lens, at my increasingly unwavering belief that I can serve best when partnering with mission-driven initiatives and institutions and collaborating to help make social entrepreneurship more accessible and actionable to individuals, teams, and especially students — I find that my fear of taking a less-traveled path subsides, leaving my courage intact.

With this lens, as I look to see unthinkable, unimaginable, unexpected challenges, fears, and setbacks that those around us have faced and found ways to keep moving forward, I find that accepting fear’s role in our lives can become one of our greatest strengths and eventual sources of courage.

We remember my Mom on her birthday and recall her incredible gifts, talents, and the lessons she taught us.

And I am reminded that in our observation of the world around us, and our own lives, we can choose to find reasons to fear or examples of courage. I hope to, at least mostly, choose the latter. Recognizing courage in others tends to help me find and realize my own.

I know my incredible network negotiate fear and courage regularly too. Would love to hear what gives you courage.

Mom collage (from "what I have learned about courage")
photos: L (my Mom), R top (nephews, siblings, Dad), R middle and lower (celebrating Mom at one of her favorite spots)

 

Mom surprise party (from "what I have learned about courage")

photo: surprise party for Mom

Mom with friends (from "what I have learned about courage")photo: summer picnic with friends

 

The Innov8social website has been updated. You may enjoy taking a look.

Listen to a Conversation Between a Series A Funder and Founder

What does a conversation about Series A funding sound like between an impact funder and founder? What stage does a social entrepreneur typically have to be in to seek in the range of $1M in funding? What are the key criteria an impact investor may be looking for to continue the conversation? How important is fit when looking for funding?

If you have ever wondered these questions as you contemplate and progress social impact initiatives, this podcast episode was designed for you. Tune in to hear Julie Abrams, long time impact investor and co-founder of a new fund, Luminar Brasil converse with Sujay Santra, founder and CEO of social enterprise iKure.

The conversation, captured at Opportunity Collaboration, provides critical insight to learn more about what impact investors are ‘screening for’ and how social entrepreneurs can focus on the right investors.

You can find all of the episodes recorded at Opportunity Collaboration here.

 

 

Listen to the Episode

 

Meet Julie Abrams, Impact Investor and C0-Founder of Luminar Brasil Impact Investing

Julie is currently working on direct and fund investments in Brazil with Luminar Brasil, a high impact venture-style fund investing in scalable companies serving the base of the pyramid, emerging middle class, and the environment in Brazil. The fund targets market returns and measurable impact, with a long-range goal to address Brazil’s income inequality. She has worked and lived in Brazil, and is fluent in Portuguese.

Julie is an impact investing pioneer with longstanding expertise and passion focused on deploying commercial investment capital for poverty elimination and needed goods, services, and resources in underserved markets globally, including over $US 360 million invested to date. She has served on impact investment committees for MicroBuild Fund and Calvert Impact Capital, and previously worked for PwC. Julie was a Fellow at the Lauder Institute, where she earned an MBA from Wharton, and an MA from University of Pennsylvania.

 

Meet Sujay Santra, Ashoka Fellow and Founder and CEO of iKure

 

Realizing that there will never be sufficient doctors to treat patients in India individually, Sujay is completely changing the healthcare system from an individualized curative model to a community-based preventive healthcare system to ensure the holistic well-being of communities. He is doing this through ICT for low-cost diagnosis and data analysis of a community’s health indicators, and implementing behavior change programs for the communities in partnership with academic institutions, locals NGOs and businesses.

Sujay founded iKure to address “last mile” health care. It is a unique social enterprise with the mission to provide affordable, accessible, and quality primary health care services to the rural population of India. He was selected as an Ashoka Fellow for his ongoing work in creating initiatives to provide healthcare to millions.

 

Check out this episode!

Is Impact Investing Right for yours impact enterprise? A perspective from Ayush Khanna, Co-Founder of LaborVoices

Is Impact Investing The Right Fit?

In this season of The Impact Podcast, we have been featuring episodes that delve deep into questions of funding for social impact. if you compared the evolution of social entrepreneurship to the stages of a person, it would be fair to say that the sector has reached an adolescence. It is no longer in its infancy but is negotiating the next range of questions and issues as it has matured. If that is the case for social enterprise, it may be said that the impact investment sector is somewhere in toddlerhood. It is growing, learning, and pivoting at an exponential pace; but is not fully developed and formed.

In this episode, you can hear how this still-developing form of investment may be a good fit or not a good fit for impact entrepreneurs. We are fortunate to be joined by Ayush Khanna, a savvy entrepreneur, recent 500 Startups graduate, and someone who has thought about these topics deeply.

 

Listen to the Episode

 

Meet Ayush Khanna

Is Impact Investing Right for yours impact enterprise? A perspective from Ayush Khanna, Co-Founder of LaborVoicesAyush is passionate about developing products that delight users while also creating social impact. At LaborVoices, he is building a platform that guides workers to the best jobs and global brands to the best suppliers. His work has been recognized by prominent organizations like USAID and Humanity United, and covered in media organizations like The Huffington Post, BBC and Reuters.

Previously, Ayush has held analytics and research roles at PayPal, Wikimedia Foundation, and Duke University. At PayPal, he worked with several Product teams to successfully launch mobile and web products in multiple regions. At Wikimedia, he developed the seminal Wikipedia reader and editor study, which revealed a signifiaAyush has a Masters degree in Information Science from UC Berkeley and a Bachelors degree in Computer Science from Mumbai University.

 

 

Check out this episode!

Listen to the Episode

 

Meet Jonathan Lewis

As part of our series of podcast episodes recorded live from Opportunity Collaboration in Ixtapa Mexico, this was a special episode with lifelong social justice advocate, social entrepreneur, and new author, Jonathan Lewis.

Amid the setting of a bustling breakfast hall, I had a chance to catch up with the founder of Opportunity Collaboration himself to learn more about his work, book, and the impetus behind founding “OC”.

By way of introduction, Jonathan is the author of The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur and Founder of MCE Social Capital, an innovative social venture that leverages $110 million of private capital to finance tiny business loans to deeply impoverished people, mostly women, in 33 countries in the developing world.

He is also Founder and President of the Opportunity Collaboration, an annual strategic business retreat for 450 senior level anti-poverty leaders from around the globe. In addition, Jonathan is the co-founder of Copia Global, an Amazon-like consumer catalog serving the base of the economic pyramid in Kenya.

In addition, he is a Trustee of the Swift Foundation. Jonathan also serves as a General Partner of Dev Equity, a social impact investment fund in Latin America. Jonathan has taught social entrepreneurship at New York University, the University of California (Berkeley) and lectured at universities around the world. He is a recipient of the Social Venture Network Innovation Award and a regular HuffPost Contributor.

 

Learn More

 



Check out this episode!

Meet Opportunity Collaboration

October 15-21, 2017 marked the 8th annual Opportunity Collaboration event that convened 400 global changemakers committed to building sustainable solutions to poverty and supporting the impact ecosystem through their work.  This gathering brought together social entrepreneurs, impact founders, impact investors, foundations, academic faculty and administration, impact media, nonprofit executives and more.

Spanning multiple days, and taking place at an all-inclusive venue, this unique unconference/conference/leadership retreat/international changemaker gathering gives participants ample opportunity to engage with each other, deepen connections, step away to reflect, recharge, and connect with the ocean and outdoors. This comparative abundance of time and opportunity nicely lends to exploring and furthering collaboration with others in the space.

I had the chance to attend Opportunity Collaboration as a Boehm Media Fellow, and through the opportunity had a chance to co-facilitate workshops on topics related to social media and digital distribution and also create podcast episodes live at Opportunity Collaboration. You can find all of the related podcast episodes here.

In this podcast episode, you will hear mini-interviews and soundbytes recorded over various days at Opportunity Collaboration to help get a sense of the event, how to make the most of it, and what has inspired people to return year and again.  Listen in or scroll below to learn about the guests and connect with and support their causes.

Listen to the Episode

Meet the Episode Guests

Learn more about the individuals and organizations featured in this episode.

Guests



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How to Talk to Impact Investors at Conferences

There are a few precious venues in which social entrepreneurs and impact investors can effortlessly mingle and connect. Conferences can be one of these special venues. In theory, it seems like the perfect thing to excitedly approach a potential investor with a pitch, deck, and ask. However, in practice, social entrepreneurs are wise to set expectations and adapt their approach to the situation.

In this episode–recorded live at Opportunity Collaboration in Ixtapa, Mexico– Antoine Cocle, who founded a capital advisory firm for social entrepreneurs looking to raise capital, shares his insight on how founders can make a good first impression and put their best foot forward.

 

Listen to the Episode

 

Meet Antoine Cocle, CEO and Founder of Kaya Impacto

Antoine is the CEO and founder of Kaya Impacto, where he leads the growth of the company as well as the investment advisory services. Before founding Kaya, Antoine led SVX Mexico’s Venture Services and was the Managing Director and Co-Founder. Previously, Antoine consulted for a Mexican High Net Worth family helping them develop an impact investment thesis and was Director of Entrepreneur Services at Agora Partnerships, where he managed the accelerator and the Capital Advisory Services area. Before dedicating himself to fostering social entrepreneurship, he was working in the financial sector, at AXA and JPMorgan.

Antoine has a Master’s in Public Administration from Columbia University and a Master in Business Engineering from the Solvay Business School (Belgium).

 

Recorded Live From Opportunity Collaboration

This episode is part of a series recorded at Opportunity Collaboration, a multi-day conference convened to bring together changemakers, funders, media, and academia to dive into sustainable solutions to poverty and furthering the social impact economy and landscape.

You can find the full Opportunity Collaboration series of The Impact Podcast here.

 

 



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How to Podcast, Recorded Live at Opportunity Collaboration

This meta ‘how to podcast’ episode came from a few conversations about the challenges, inertia, and decision paralysis that content creators can face when considering launching a podcast. It was recorded and published live from Opportunity Collaboration 2017 in Ixtapa, Mexico. The episode features a candid conversation with award-winning radio, print, and photo journalist, Peter Aronson. We are are both joining OC this year as part of the Boehm Media Fellows program and we both come to podcasting from unique perspectives.

Tune in to hear our candid conversation on how we podcast, do’s and don’t, the ‘why’ behind our work, and a few of the tools and equipment we have found helpful in producing, publishing, and distributing our podcasts.

Listen to the Episode

Meet Peter Aronson

Peter Aronson is an award-winning journalist with a total of two decades of experience working in radio, print, online journalism and photography. His radio work has been featured on NPR, Marketplace and Voice of America. He has produced two 30-minute radio documentaries and has won national and regional awards for his work.

He has reported from the mountains of Mexico and the Moskva River, from Microsoft headquarters and from call centers in India. He has traveled by canoe into the jungles of Nicaragua to report one story and climbed to a remote hilltop village in Nepal to report another.

Peter speaks six languages, two of them fluently. He’s worked as a producer-editor for MSNBC.com and as a vice president in the corporate world — in India. Now he is focusing his energy on two things: drinking water for Mexicans, he is co-founder of Biluu, and photography. In the past year, my photographs have been exhibited at the Museo Soumaya, the Museo de la Ciudad de Querétaro, and in New York City.

You can find Peter’s full bio, awards, and work here.

Resources

Here are a few resources we mentioned in the podcast episode. These are not necessarily recommendations or endorsements, but came up in discussion.

Books

  • Sound and Recording: Applications and Theory

Podcast recording, editing, publishing apps

  • TwistedWave
  • Bossjock

Podcast hosting

  • Libysn
  • Soundcloud

Equipment

  • Blue Yeti Microphone
  • Binaural microphone (for 3D sound)


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Meet Reel Impact Film Festival

This is a very special episode with soundbites from presenters, finalists, and organizers from the inaugural Reel Impact Film Festival (RIFF) by One World Training.

RIFF brought together a robust community of impact film lovers, filmmakers, and film funders for an evening of screenings, workshops, and conversation.

 

Listen to the Episode

 

Meet One World Training

We first met One World Training when it was named Palo Alto Impact Center.  A name change and many events later, One World Training is becoming a force in the Silicon Valley social impact community through organizing events, facilitating conversations, and bringing together impact investors, social entrepreneurs, and advisors in the space for constructive dialogue and interaction.

Join the Next Reel Impact Film Festival

Happening November 16th, more information and RSVP here

 



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