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Time management: Taking Control of your email inbox
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Time management: Taking Control of your email inbox


Learn about the cost and negative impact of poor email management and an out-of-control inbox. Also, learn the action-based approach to achieve a "zero inbox" with your email. Increase your …

Learn about the cost and negative impact of poor email management and an out-of-control inbox. Also, learn the action-based approach to achieve a "zero inbox" with your email. Increase your productivity by learning to be a better email sender and a better manager of your email inbox.

You can follow me @jmsierra on Twitter or go to www.josuesierra.net.

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  • --In today’s workplace, email is the central tool through which we manage our workload, communicate, store important information and track our tasks or action items. -- This means: You’re spending more time than ever in your inbox…rightly so.
  • But, In unpublished research by Prof Tom Jackson of Loughborough University, it was found that email is stressing us out!!QUOTE: “Stress levels, analyzed by saliva samples as well as heart rate and blood pressure monitors over a 24-hour period, peaked at points in the day when people's inboxes were fullest, the study found.Emails which were irrelevant, which interrupted work or demanded an immediate response were particularly taxing, while those which arrived in response to completed work had a calming effect.”Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/confirmed-email-is-stressing-you-out-2013-6#ixzz2VHiZPSoyFor the average information worker (like me, and you), this spells a huge immediate and long-term problem with consequences to your productivity, and your health.Let’s look at what I think is the SINGLE key root cause.
  • The culprit, at it’s root, is multi-tasking which has been increased by the exponential increase in the use of technology.I’d like to read you an excerpt from an Inc.com article.In a 2009 study, Stanford researcher Clifford Nass did an experiment with students that involved 1) switching among tasks, 2) filtering irrelevant information, and 3) using working memory. Nass and his colleagues expected that frequent multitaskers would outperform nonmultitaskers on at least some of these activities. They found the opposite: Here is what the Inc.com article writes about the research: Chronic multitaskers were abysmal at all three tasks. The scariest part: Only one of the experiments actually involved multitasking, signaling to Nass that even when they focus on a single activity, frequent multitaskers use their brains less effectively.Read more: http://business.time.com/2013/04/17/dont-multitask-your-brain-will-thank-you/
  • The key part of this quote is “the time it takes to get back on track”. There is a cost to getting distracted.
  • Let’s explore “Zero Inbox” approachLet’s get better at using & sending emails
  • So, does your inbox look something like this? Yes…that’s a screen capture of my “BEFORE” email inbox. Yes…that’s 48 THOUSAND unread emails.
  • This is a folder system. It can grow exponentially. It requires you remember where you saved an email.The alternative is Action Based system.
  • This is possible. 2 hours of work. And a way to keep it that way.
  • Let’s explore a different approach to managing your inbox: Action based inbox managementAlso know as “The 4 D’s”1) Do something with the email – take an action immediately (reply, provide your input, respond to question, etc.)2) Delete the email. -- If it was just for information, once you read it, delete it.3) Delegate the email to the relevant person in your team if it requires someone else’s action. 4) Defer the email and file in ‘action’ for later attention.
  • Let’s look at what this might look like: [ go to: gmail.com, take action on emails. ]
  • Allocate a time to monitor your emails each day/week (no more than once an hour). When you do, address each email as you read it with The 4 D’s action approach. Don’t check the mail once it arrives in your mail box.Consider turning off alerts to reduce the temptation to constantly check emails.Educate your correspondents; Be intentional & explicit. Discuss “CC” needs (yours and theirs) with superiors and co-workers. Request removal from irrelevant “threads”. Create an “Action based” email box/folders as shown.Use the 4 D’s each day.Become a better emailer yourself!Let’s explore the last item – Let’s look at how to be a better emailer.
  • Write clear subject lines-- Develop a pre-subject line “hint” system.( FYI Only, Action Needed, Status Update, etc.)-- Avoid using a reply to initiate a conversation about a different topic. Reduce “CC”, consider FWD instead. -- If a boss or associate needs to be informed, forward an email, rather than CC’ing him or her. -- Be clear of what action is needed when writing to multiple people. -- Don’t expect everyone to read down to the bottom of the email thread – summarize or point out context when needed.Be intentional about discussing communication needs.-- Ask how much he/she wants to be informed of the step-by-step? -- Likewise, inform your own team/co-workers when you’re being over-informed, or explicit about what touch-points are needed.When available, use collaboration tools such as intranet, sharepoint, wiki, or file-sharing folders to reduce clutter in the inbox.-- Provide links to files, rather than attaching. It prevents multiple versions of the file and makes the inbox quicker to go through.-- When topics are complex, consider scheduling a meeting or phone call rather than trying to hash it out over email. -- Sometimes, a phone call to ask a question is better than a rushed email that may be unclear and inpersonable.-- Avoid using emails for things of sensitive nature or were emotional context is needed.-- Consider who you are communicating to and who else is being CC’d when writing email. Folks on the CC list (a boss for example) ads emotional context to an email.
  • You’re probably familiar with this, but it’s worth reviewing (from Franklin Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)Keep this in mind as you manage your time, AND as you manage the work coming in through your inbox. The goal is to work to stay in boxes #1 and #2. Where do short “creative breaks” fall in the quadrant?? (#2)
  • I would like to mention one productivity method out there worth trying out. There are many others, so look until you find one that works for you. The key concept is to have a tool that helps you focus on one task at a time. The concept: You focus on one task at a time, forecasting how long it will take you, measuring your time as you go along, and then also taking short 5 minutes breaks to prepare for another task. You can use it as you need it depending on the demand on your time. I like this method because it helps me focus on one single task. You can find pomodoro timer apps in the Google Play store.In that same article, Inc points out another study by neuroscientists at the French medical research agency Inserm showed that when people focus on two tasks simultaneously, each side of the brain tackles a different task.This suggests a two-task limit on what the human brain can handle. Taking on more tasks increases the likelihood of errors, so Nass suggests what he calls the 20-minute rule. Rather than switching tasks from minute to minute, dedicate a 20-minute chunk of time to a single task, then switch to the next one.
  • Thank you for your time and attention.


  • 3. AGENDA1. Let’s explore “Zero Inbox”approach2. Let’s get better at using &sending emails
  • 10. 1) Write clear subjectlines2) Reduce “CC”3) Be intentional4) Use collaborationtools when available.
  • 11. POMODOROwww.pomodorotechnique.com
  • 12. THANK YOUJosue Sierrawww.josuesierra.netOn Twitter @jmsierra786-271-2498