How (and why) I Created a Filter for My Email

By Jonathan Goodman | Follow Him on Twitter

I’ve made myself much less available.

I’ll give you a run-down of my system for email in a bit, but first, let me explain why I decided to outsource most of my correspondence and rescind deeper into my hole.

Things are busy but I could probably still make time for email if I wanted, but I don’t want to. Email ruins me. It gives me anxiety and often leaves me with negative thoughts clouding my vision and putting me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

email cartoon

I really love getting and answering emails from actual readers who ask intelligent questions or just want to say hi. Unfortunately, the majority of messages are one of the following 3 types.

The “Please Do This For Me” Email


These are pretty easy to identify by two things: emoticons and end with the phrase “any advice would be appreciated”.

I consider it an honor to be asked for advice and don’t mind giving it but it’s rare that the person contacting me actually has a question. Usually the sender is looking for justification to continue doing what they’re already doing.

The “I Have Something Amazing for You to Check Out” Email

Email from marketing company

The amount of unsolicited messages I receive telling me that somebody has discovered a secret or created a revolutionary tool is frightening. Whatever happened to the mentality of being so good that they can’t ignore you? Even then, I’m easy to find on Facebook or Twitter. Why not eye me from a far on the dance floor, hang out for a bit, buy me a few drinks, and offer me a dance before asking me to take you home.

It’s like getting an email from a lawyer representing the estate of my deceased long lost cousin Prince Zahir Muhammed, who is in possession of $47,000,000 and just doesn’t know what to do with it (shame). Somebody’s gotta respond to these messages right?

Actually, I did respond to a message from a Prince a couple of months back saying that I was very excited and interested, albeit sad that I never got to meet my cousin before he passed, and asked that the lawyer send me back instructions immediately. I didn’t get a response, so not sure what the end game is there.

The Customer Service Email

customer service emailThese emails were what put the final nail in the coffin for me. All of my customer service emails were asking one of 5-10 different things. Depending on the day, there could be dozens with the same response. I recommend everybody outsource any kind of customer service. If you don’t, it will leave you rife with negativity which will make it impossible for you to produce any good work.

To open up time and energy, I hired a virtual assistant (VA) from Zirtual for $200/month. My Internet friends called me stupid because I could get a VA from overseas for a fraction of the price. The difference? Zirtual has a great system set up and all VA’s being located in the United States and are University educated.

Mine, for example, is named Courtney. She is a stay-at-home mother. The system paired us together based off of a questionnaire I filled out and we spoke on the phone for 30 minutes.

It’s been hard to let go of responsibilities because of how present I’ve been in my business from it’s inception but I’m slowly starting to delegate. My rule is that I delegate all activities that 1) drain my energy or 2) I feel like I do a bad job at. In the past month and a half, I’ve taken on 7 contractors for various monthly tasks including Courtney. It cost $4,200 last month but because of them, I made multiple times that amount.

How I Organize My Email

I’ve developed a system that makes handling email a breeze. It’s freed up my time and energy and hasn’t taken away from my business or connection with the people that I want to connect with.

At one point I had 8 email accounts for various websites, coaching programs, and administrative tasks. Here’s what I did step by step:

  1. Created a new email that nobody has access to but Courtney.
  2. Created a Gmail account for Courtney and linked all emails accounts other than my one personal one to it.
  3. Deleted all access to the email accounts off of my phone and computer.
  4. Asked Courtney to delete all obvious junk and forward me all messages to start at 10am each day.
  5. Replied back to Courtney with instructions on how to handle the message in the future if I don’t want a similar message sent to me.
  6. Gave Courtney limited permissions to my Paypal account to do refunds and compile reports and instructed her how to handle all administrative tasks.

It’s taken a month of back and forth, but she is now comfortable handling almost all of the messages other than personal ones. Once a day at 10am she forwards me my email. I set aside 30 minutes at one point during the day to go through them (there usually isn’t more than 10-15) and answer all those I wish to answer. These are usually personal interactions.

Time and mental clarity are my two most valuable resources and this system has allowed me to preserve both. Without them, creativity is impossible and without creativity, art cannot exist.

And finally, to celebrate Viralnomics complete with terrible illustrations, I give you a quote by Ludwig Witgenstein

“How can one learn the truth by thinking? As one learns to see a face better if one draws it.”



  1. Thank you for this! Couldn’t have come at a better time, I am absolutely inundated with email from clients and some of the things they ask for are killing me! I am going to implement this system today because I did hire a virtual assistant from our local university here that works from home for me and does a great job, but I never thought to just forwarding everything to her and having her figure it the heck out!!! Thanks again, love your posts!

  2. Zirtual sounds great! I just wish they hired Canadians as well!

  3. This makes perfect sense to me. Delegate or change what is not working. The sooner the better!

    Oh, and your drawings really are bad. Ouch, sting. Sorry. I am not good at drawing either, so when someone says they are not good, I usually laugh and think… better than me! But, well, yea, so, ummm…. Whatever connects you to the good stuff, man! ;)

  4. Great post. Well said and thought out.

  5. Thanks Craig. Glad that you liked it bro.