Saturday, July 05, 2008

Managing Email Volume - The Great American Timesuck

I am back from China. Thought I would share a couple of photos still though.

First one is of a case of water. I loved the French name (for my Eglish readers - C'est bon means it is good)

The second shows a factory at shift change. Thousands of workers stream through a dozen or so gates equiped with RFID readers that clock the time. Labour laws in China are getting similar to North America complete with increasing minimum wages, overtime pay, workers compensation etc.

A friend emailed me a link to an email management software article. It is aptly called the Great American Time Suck. Managing email is certainly a challenge and I am not sure software is the way to go. My 10 tips for Handling Email Volume:

1 - Deal with it once. If I can deal with an email start to finish in less than a couple of minutes, I just do it. Leaving it to read again then respond just takes more time.

2 - Train people you interact with on the email ettiquette you want. EG - I only want the person who takes the action in the to line - everyone else in the cc list. I also coach on unneccesary email - let people know when I do not need to be included.

3 - I generally leave my highest energy and creative times to NOT do email. The better I know when these are - the more effective I can be.

4 - Get off lists.

5 - I have a great folder system and many of the lists that I am on get automatically filtered to these folders. For example, all the email newsletters and publications go to folders when I can read at my leasure.

6 - Of course I love my Blackberry. It greatly reduces my time required to do email and allows me to use any idle minutes I might happen to have.

7 - Delete, delete, delete. You can always find it if you need it. I also keep slush files. Simply move emails to a July08 folder. Then find them there.

8 - Avoid email clutter in what you send. EG - use descriptive Subjects. Sending email creates more email. Don't cc everyone. No reply to all.

9 - If a message goes back and forth more than 4 or 5 times - just pick up the phone.

10 - Just do it. I find my stress level is lower if my email is clear. I end every day with no messages in my in box. (I might have a few in my to do subfolder).

Today is a photo blog on China. With my comments of course.

This photo shows factory workers at shift change. Does not do the mass of people justice. Thousands of people stream through gates with RFID tags logging their hours. China has people (1.3 Billion). They were fairly low paid (but that is changing. So they often added staff because it is low cost. I think with the new higher wages, there will be more focus on efficiency.

And in many ways China is ahead of Canada on environmental issues. This photo shows the tea cups in a factory. No paper of styrofoam.

This is a typical factory. 5-6 stories high. The elevators are only for product. People walk the stairs (including guests). No wonder the Chinese seem to not have the North American obesity problem. I notice this in the subways also - long walks. And of course chop sticks don't hurt - tough to eat too much.

Factories have shines. It seems the world all practises some religion. It is surprisingly strong here considering how it was outlawed for years. This shrines remind me of Mexico where the factories have Christian shrines.


At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me add a few additional points on the issue of the "Great American Timesuck":

1. Never "check" your email. Process it!

2. Process email only at specific, scheduled times during the day. Don't let email drive your day.

3. Follow the 4 D-s of processing: Delete, Delegate (if you can), Do it (if it takes < 2minutes), Defer it (if it requires action, but takes more than 2 minutes)

4. Defer email by dragging it to your (Outlook) task pad (with a reminder date) or directly on to your calendar (if you know when you want to deal with it)

5. Opening an email and closing it back without making a decision/action (as per the 4 D-s) is not an option!

6. While "Crackberries" may be useful to some (disciplined users), my suggestion is to use them (or any other PDA-s) for everything BUT email...unless your life or livelihood depends on it.

Email is a great productivity tool, if used properly. Otherwise, it is indeed a great detractor ("Timesucker")

At 6:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am on board with you creating efficiency and saving wasted time with email. I wrote several blog posts on it myself:


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