You want to embrace email marketing.

After all, what’s not to love about a marketing vehicle that’s so direct, so personal, and offers your business such an amazing return on investment?

But boy-oh-boy, if you don’t plan your email marketing carefully, it can end up feeling like writing, creating, and monitoring it takes over your whole week.

Use these five tips to get ahead of your email marketing tasks, and make them a natural part of your work routine.

1. Commit to what you can do consistently

Before you start your email marketing program, think about your other responsibilities, and how much time you’ll have to devote to this new task.

As a rule of thumb, newsletters should go out at least once a month. Less than that, and your subscribers may not remember subscribing and will unsubscribe when they get your message.

Think ahead, plan out your marketing campaigns for the year, and decide how you’ll use email marketing to support your efforts. Then, block out time every week to work on writing, creating, and monitoring your email campaigns.

2. Set up a design format that’s plug and play

If you’re going to put forth the effort of creating emails for your business, you want them to look great and represent your brand beautifully.

Your job will be easier if your emails are designed with a fuss-free format that’s simple to assemble. It’s worth the extra effort to design a template you can use over and over to provide a consistent experience both for you — the email creator — and your reader.

As always, the primary focus should be a design that’s readable, because — of course — our emails are meant to be read. Remember:

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

3. Plan content you can create easily

Don’t recreate the content wheel each time.

Decide what you’ll write about in each email, and stick to that format over time. Once again: it’s easier for both the email creator and the recipient.

As the email creator, if you know that for each email you need to write content to fill specific “slots” you’ve created, you won’t be starting from scratch each time.

And your recipients will be grateful for emails that arrive with the same basic format each time, so they can easily scan the contents and extract what they’re most interested in.

4. Write and deliver them on a schedule

There’s nothing like a deadline to light a fire under you, right?

“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.” – Nolan Bushnell

I’m not sure why deadlines have such a negative reputation. Setting and sticking to a deadline for your work allows you to structure your time so that you can meet your deadline each time.

This may mean writing your emails on the same day of the week for weekly emails, or the same week of the month for monthly emails. Knowing the exact deadline you’re working against will help you do what needs to be done, and line up help if needed.

5. Use an automated series of emails

Finally, here’s one of my favorite “secret weapons” for saving time with your email marketing: the automated email series.

Automated email series are emails you set up once, and they’re delivered automatically to people who sign up to one of your lists. They allow you to send a series of messages that build and strengthen your relationship with your new prospects and customers at a time that their interest in your business is high.

Automated email series work best for delivering timeless information that helps orient people to your business. They can be planned out to be delivered over a year’s time at intervals you specify.

They are the true “set it and forget it” email marketing technique — once you’ve created your automated email series, you can sit back and watch while it’s delivered automatically.

What’s your favorite technique?

Do you plan to try any of these ideas? Do you have a favorite time-saving technique you’d like to share?

Scroll down to the comments section, and let’s talk about your best tips for creating an email marketing routine that works for you.

About the Author: Pamela Wilson of Big Brand System helps small businesses owners learn to use strategic marketing and great design to grow their businesses. Get her free Design 101 course and pick up tips for making all your marketing materials work better.