Posts Tagged ‘Email productivity’

While in Toronto in early November at the Professional Organizers in Canada annual conference I attended a workshop delivered by Deanne Kelleher from Kaos Group called “Essential and Powerful Business Tools”.  The session made me realize how many systems all of us small business owners should have in place and perhaps don’t, myself included.  If only I could find the time! (more…)


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Yup, here I am yet again ranting about email productivity, or lack thererof!

I’m reading this great book about email entitled The Hamster RevolutionThough I’ve studied this subject a lot, I like the creative approach to explaining what email overload can do to us – it can turn us all into tiny hamsters running on a hamster wheel 7 days a week trying to keep up. (more…)

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Yup, that’s right, I did it, I finally moved into this decade – I’ve got myself a brand new Blackberry Style 9670 Smartphone – eeks!

Now, you would think that perhaps that was an easy decision and that my relationship with my new device is a love in.  So not the case, people.   Mostly because it’s been a very long three week journey to get the right smartphone and to get it all nicely synced with MS Outlook.  (more…)

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I’m thinking about ‘To Do’s’ because there are just too darn many of them!  

If I look at my ‘To Do’s’ from this past week there are 51 items that I put on the various days this week and all but 4 of them are complete – this blogpost is the next one I can check off – yippee!  No wonder I’m exhausted – 51 ‘To Do’s’ crammed into an already fully booked week . . . . it’s so time for a nap.

I was chatting with a client yesterday who has finally got a reliable system for tracking her ‘To Do’s’ so they are now in one place.  Before she started using the Task list in Outlook she had ‘To Do’s’ in many places – on specially designed sheets just for that purpose, buried in her email inbox, in meeting notes, in her planning calendar and worst of all in her head!  The drawback to now having them all in one place is that she realizes how many there actually are which can be a bit scary. However, even though she is struggling with getting them done on the day she plans to do them, she does feel far more in control knowing they are all in one place and she can re-assign them throughout the week.

All this to say that making lists doesn’t actually accomplish anything other than gathering everything in one place and getting it out of your head.  Setting the intention to actually accomplish the specific items on the lists only happens when you make a concious decision on each and every item and decide when you will do it. You are usually going to have 3 categories of ‘To Do’s’ – do now, do soon, do someday.  The ‘do now’ and ‘do soon’ items should all be assigned a specific day whereas the ‘do someday’ will eventually either become ‘do soon’ or ‘do now’ or they will be deleted once you get really tired of looking at them on your list – ha!

You can effectively manage your ‘To Do’s’ with either a paper-based or electronic system.  I learned on paper 15 years ago from my friends at Priority Management and have been loosely following their system ever since.  I am in the process of considering switching to using Outlook but am delayed because I can’t decide which Smartphone to buy, darn it!  Without a Smartphone that gives me access to my Calendar and Tasks in Outlook there is no point switching from my paper system since I’m always out of my office and need my planning and organizing system by my side at all times.

I guess I’d better keep putting ‘Get a smartphone’ on my ‘To Do’ list until I finally get tired of looking at it and just take the plunge and buy one.

Well, kids, could go on and on, but gotta run and check some ‘To Do’s’ off my list!

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Over the last two weeks I attended a fascinating series of webinars delivered by David Rock, CEO of Results Coaching Systems.  The series was entitled ‘Your Brain at Work’ and I learned so much about how your brain works and affects your productivity, among many other things, that I thought I should share with all of you.  As well, David says that talking about what you are studying helps to assimilate the information so I’m doing as instructed.

A survey of 6,000 employees showed that most do their best thinking in the morning but only 10% do their best thinking at work – yikes!  Perhaps this is because most of us use this crucial morning time at the office for checking email and attending meetings – not good. 

David recommends that you only use your brain for ‘processing’ not storing information and I so agree with him.  You can only consciously focus on one active task at a time and can only hold 4 ideas in your working memory.   Creative work takes the most mental energy and we need to do this during our best time of day and before we use up mental energy processing email and attending meetings. 

He says that one of the most complex tasks is prioritizing your day in alignment with achieving your goals.  And all these years I have been prioritizing my day the night before.  Hmmm… my reasoning for that was so that I could hit the ground running the next morning combined with the fact that I am not really a morning person.  Have I been doing it all wrong? 

When we try to make decisions or solve problems it takes a lot of energy.  In addition, when we are anxious we have a lot less insight which makes problem solving much more difficult.  A little bit of pressure inhibits the signal required to solve problems.  Imagine that most of us are either under constant pressure from our organization or we put constant pressure on ourselves to go faster, do more, be more productive.  It seems that perhaps we’ve got it all wrong?

We all need to slow down physically and mentally and stop pressuring ourselves to make decisions and solve problems. That is when we will begin to be truly productive.

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Here’s the last collection of thoughts I have on Email Productivity, I promise.  Well, maybe not.  You never know when I might read or think of something new and exciting to share!

The final part of managing email effectively has to do with thinking about the people on the receiving end of your email messages.  The underlying concept is that the fewer messages we send, the fewer we will receive.  Here are a few others.

1. Use ‘cc’ and ‘reply all’ very sparingly – before you use either, imagine that you have to ph0tocopy your message, put it in an envelope and mail it – would you still include as many people?

2. Use correct business etiquette – treat email as business correspondence, – use ‘Dear’, use capital letters to begin sentences, use proper sentence structure, and finally  ‘Regards’ with your signature to complete the message

3. Respond to incoming messages within 24 hours – if you don’t know the answer, let the person know that you’re working on it

4. Limit each message to one topic – this makes it easier for the recipient to file, respond and manage your message

5. Use a descriptive subject line – subject lines are the most important part of your outgoing email, be specific as to message content and the action required by the recipient

6. When creating a message follow these steps to avoid forgetting the attachment – open the new message, insert the attachment, type the body of the message, create the subject line and finally insert the To:

7. Always include an automatic signature – there is nothing more frustrating, especially if the recipient is not as well organized as you are, than having to search for someone’s phone number when you receive an email and need to call them

Email makes communication faster and easier and can make a powerful business impression.  We canb all establish positive professional relationships by managing outgoing email effectively and always keeping the recipient in mind.

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Here’s the one part of the training I deliver on E-mail Productivity that even I am still not sure about.

Should we create folders within our E-mail program to file and retrieve messages?  Should we just leave all the messages in one folder which gets archived regularly and is searchable anytime?  Should we file all messages outside of our email program?  How should we handle all of the ‘in process’ messages that are filling up our inbox along with the constant flood of new messages?

I think the answers are always, “It depends.”  It depends on your organizing style and preferences, it depends on the policy of your organization when it comes to information management, it depends on the capacity of your email system, it depends on how the way you organize messages affects the other people you work with.

I personally prefer to create folders within my Personal Folders in my email program for any messages that are still hanging around as something that might possibly come back into my life in the current year.  Anything older than that should be archived or filed outside of my email program.  I like to have several ‘Action’ folders such as ‘Pending’ and ‘To Read’ plus my standard array of ‘Reference’ folders in my ‘Filing Cabinet’.  Folders such as:

  • Administration
  • Clients
  • Marketing
  • Personal
  • Volunteer

A few other ideas you might want to consider include:

  1. When should you file ‘Sent’ messages?
  2. How can you use ‘Rules’ to automatically file messages?
  3. Empty your ‘Deleted’ folder daily
  4. Empty your ‘Sent’ folder monthly – I keep 3 months of ‘Sent’ messages
  5. Run ‘Auto Archive’ daily for any messages older than 2 weeks

Any comments you would like to share on this subject, I would really appreciate. More on e-mail productivity again next week, I think.

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