Email steals too much of your precious time, doesn’t it?
Processing email takes way too much time because we never learned to manage it effectively. We are constantly interrupted, invest countless hours in it, re-read emails that languish in our inbox, store email we don’t need and suffer from email overload. Don’t you agree?
This book provides what you need to manage email, eliminate the overload and save your precious time. It will help you minimize interruption, overcome indecision and empty your inbox. It will help you organize priorities and manage time, so you can get your work done—at work. You can give up doing email at dinner and in bed. Good idea?
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Read an Excerpt
Unload Email OverloadHow to Master Email Communications, Unload Email Overload and Save Your Precious Time!
By Bob O'Hare
Balboa PressCopyright © 2012 Bob O'Hare
All right reserved.
This chapter provides you with the underlying principles of MasteringEmail. It will show you how to relieve the anxiety of email overload by spending less time processing messages and more time doing actual work. In addition, your colleagues will benefit by your example, and your life will get easier as they follow your lead, making for a healthier work/life balance for everyone. Imagine the joy!
Principle 1 Maintain separate work and personal mailboxes
Create two email addresses, one for personal email and one for business email. Large organizations require that you do this for a good reason: They know that the availability of personal email will distract you from the job you are being paid to do.
Spending time on pictures, jokes and personal matters robs your focus and can distract your colleagues, especially if you forward to them. On the job, paying attention to business is what's ethical and courteous. Personal email, perusing the web, and having fun on the computer are best done when you are not on company time. Redirect personal email to your personal account—better, let your assistant do this, if you have one—and explicitly ask friends to use your personal account for personal email. In a short time, this change alone can significantly reduce the number of emails arriving in your office inbox.
Principle 2 Do not surrender today's plans to today's email
Don't think of incoming email as a spontaneous ToDo list, unless it's your job to respond immediately to incoming email. Instead, discipline yourself to use your email to build a task list, arrange your calendar and organize your work. The way to save yourself from surrendering today's plans to today's email is to plan your work and work your plan. That way, you should be able to get your work done and go home at a reasonable hour.
Email sent or received today should only be important to your near future. If input is required for today's work, pick up the phone.
Principle 3 Use administrative assistance
If you are fortunate enough to have an administrative assistant, have your assistant make a pass through your email before you do. A well-briefed assistant can monitor your incoming email more frequently than you can, and— simply by putting articles and proposals into a reading file and forwarding emails you would normally delegate to others—can help coworkers get on with business, eliminate junk from your queue, and prevent you from becoming the bottleneck. This is a big one; start today. Your assistant, according to your instructions, can then leave in your inbox only important items upon which you must take action. Personal assistants are smart and understand what is important to you. Discuss how you would like to work together. Listen to them. Trust them! They will like that.
Most upper-level managers do have administrative assistants that review and process their email. If this is the case, when writing to them, do not carbon copy their assistants. Telling this to your people can eliminate hundreds of carbon copies.
Principle 4 Batch process email by appointment with yourself
This principle, in particular, is essential to managing your email effectively and relieving overload.
If receiving and responding to email is your job, as in customer or technical service, each arriving email is a priority that requires your full attention. But for most of you, this is not the case. Email is just a communication tool, not a priority and not meant for immediate reply. That being so, it is best to ignore arriving email and evaluate it in context with other communications, such as telephone calls, memos and face-to-face meetings—just one business task to perform among all others. When it comes to email, make appointments with yourself to process email and, during that appointment, do nothing else. This principle will stop email from managing you and stop you from constantly checking your email. Acting on each email as it arrives will only complicate your life. Discipline yourself. Turn off the email alert on your Smartphone, and process email only when you plan to do so.
Let your colleagues and team members know that you plan to process your email at scheduled times each day. Tell them not to expect a reply for perhaps a day. Suggest, in cases of emergency or urgency, that they phone you. By all means have such a discussion with your boss and agree mutually on a plan. Setting expectations will reduce any criticism that might come your way for being nonresponsive and accrue credit to you for using your time wisely.
Principle 5 Process email last in, first serve
Process email last in, first serve rather than first in, first serve—let the last email you receive be the first one you process. Last in, first serve makes more sense because it can eliminate unnecessary work. Your inbox might contain two or three sequential emails sent to you over time. The last email might say forget about the first two emails. If you process your inbox first in, first serve, you could end up responding to email that no longer requires a response. Last in, first serve can save you from wasting time and, maybe, appearing foolish. You learned this technique in your first management course, remember?
Principle 6 Make three deliberate passes
As you batch process your email, you will find that messages can be handled effectively with a quick scan through your inbox followed by two specific passes. During the scan, look for very important email—from the boss, surprises and anything requiring immediate input for you to move forward with top priorities. During the first pass, remove all distractions and act on the items your colleagues need from you in order to get on with their work. Process each email one time and remove it from your inbox. Save email requiring more thought and detail for the second pass—work planning, updating your calendar and scheduling time for your priorities, tasks and obligations.
Principle 7 Delete aggressively
When processing email during your scheduled times, delete aggressively! Delete carbon copies, threaded email, information that would be nice to know or you think you might like to have some time in the future. And after taking appropriate action on any particular item, delete that email. Do not leave the email there to look at again. Your daily goal should be to empty the inbox.
If you see something important, pick up the phone, or make a note to discuss it at the next scheduled meeting. If you feel you just can't delete, ugh, drag it to a folder.
Don't even think about forwarding the occasional "send to ten friends" email; just zap it. You'll be doing them a kindness.
Principle 8 Send very few carbon copies
To reduce the volume of email you send and receive, minimize the use of carbon copies. If you want the receiver to take action, put their name on the To line. Send a carbon? Ask yourself if it's really necessary to keep all those people in the loop. Do they need that information, would they want it, or would they be better off without it? Everyone benefits by reducing the hundreds of carbon copies floating through the system, so send a carbon only when you must. In an interview with the New York Times, the CEO of Henkel, in Germany, revealed that he deletes carbon copies. If he can do it, you surely can.
Some carbon copies come from colleagues who are actually crying out for help, seeking protection, living in fear of missing something or afraid of doing the wrong thing. If you sense this, reach out and take the opportunity to help.
Principle 9 Send less email
Don't burden your colleagues and managers. Put discussion items on meeting agendas, talk to people in the halls and pick up the phone. Feel confident and make independent decisions. Think about whether the email you're sending is important and something the person actually needs to know. Think three times before you send an FYI. Do they have the information already, are you sending it to meet their needs or yours, and is there a better way or better time? People often leave FYI email languishing in their inboxes until they can figure what to do with it, creating bothersome clutter.
Be thoughtful about hitting Reply to All. Are you extending an unnecessary thread? Should you change the subject of a threaded email? Do you want to inform everyone, or do you want just one person to take action?
Imagine for a moment that each time a person opened an email from you, it cost you a dollar, and it also cost the receiver a dollar. You want to know that the email has value to the receiver before you send it so that it's worth your effort to produce it. Thinking of value, you might send fewer emails, resulting in fewer emails for the world to process and far less confusion.
Principle 10 Cut the thread
After receiving an email, you can choose the option to send the contents of that email on to others when you hit Reply or Forward. That's good; it helps the original sender to remember what they said and gives those to which it is forwarded a little background. However, if this option is used several times in a row and copied to various people, the message can develop a convoluted history string. Don't continue a thread if it is not productive or if the subject of the matter has changed. Instead, cut unnecessary information, change the Subject line or take the time to write a new, clear, targeted message.
Principle 11 Empty your inbox every day
This principle is a must. When you process email, during your scheduled times, take complete and appropriate action on each email, one by one, and then remove the email from your inbox. Delete it, process it, file it, whatever; make sure it leaves the inbox. Be ruthless.
Principle 12 Shut off, or ignore, email alerts
Do not interrupt one-on-one meetings to read or respond to your email. Smartphones, or visible PC screens, buzz, blink and vibrate. Responding to them is impolite and disruptive and devalues your one-on-one time. Be disciplined. Your temptation to look will be eliminated—and you will earn respect from others for your consideration and for setting a proper tone—if you simply shut off the beep, get away from the PC screen and tuck your Smartphone away.
If you are in an informal meeting and waiting for an important email related to priority work, keep your Smartphone on vibrate, and extend the courtesy of letting others know that you may be briefly interrupted. Otherwise, be courteous and attentive to what is at hand, and shut your system down. Take the lead and others may follow.
During formal meetings, turn off your email or email-notification setting. When you allocate blocks of time to process email, as you would a block of time for a priority task, you will look at email when you plan to, rather than when each message arrives. You will also be able to give your full attention to the meeting. You won't miss anything, will be ready if called upon and will avoid possible embarrassment. You also won't have to send one more email to a colleague asking what you missed.
There you go!
One last thought: Tell others what you are doing and why. We sometimes become so involved communicating indirectly by email that we miss something basic and fail to get across essential ideas. When it comes to the workplace, it makes common sense and is mannerly to simply let your colleagues and managers know how you are managing your email, and therefore your availability.
A short, group MasteringEmail training session would be ideal and go a long way toward everyone operating on the same page—and maybe even getting home in time for dinner.
Chapter TwoProcessing Method
When you get home from work at night, you probably check your physical mailbox for whatever was delivered by your mailman. You were not fretting all day over what might be there, were you? Your incoming mail did not drive your actions and decision-making, did it?
So let's think for a minute about how you handle paper mail that comes to your house. Imagine the routine. You open your mailbox, or pick it up from the floor if yours is delivered through a slot, and you go through the pile. First, you scan for anything that looks important or interesting. Advertisement, junk, junk, bill, post card. Ah, a post card. You stop flipping and read it—nice!—then start flipping again. Junk, flyer, bill, bill, magazine, letter response to a job application. You put the pile down and take an immediate action, open the letter and enjoy the good news. Then you resume and finish your scan.
Next, you start sorting. All the junk mail goes together for recycling. Magazines and catalogs are put aside to read later, and maybe you walk over and replace the outdated magazine on your coffee table with the current issue. You put bills in one pile to pay later and the solicitation from the insurance company in a pile of things to research when you have time. There is the one letter addressed to a neighbor, so you make a quick call to say you'll drop it off later. Sound familiar?
Now, some people sit down and write a check as soon as they receive a bill; others put them in a batch for later. You might like to open each bill, toss extraneous inserts, put a return address and stamp on the return envelope and slide the ready-to-pay bill into a binder with other bills. The envelope the bill came in goes in the recycling pile.
Note that the original pile of mail has been sorted and processed, none of the original pile remains and your mailbox is empty. One thing you don't do, for sure, is return empty envelopes, junk mail, piles and bills to your mailbox, which would quickly get clogged up with useless paper. You processed your mail as if you had an appointment to do so. You emptied the mailbox and, essentially, you sorted your mail into three categories: respond right away, dispatch quickly, and plan to work on it.
To manage your email effectively, all you have to do is process it the same way you process your paper mail, during a specific time—an appointment—set aside to do that and nothing else. Your goal for each email is to read and comprehend it, take complete and appropriate action and delete it from your inbox. An appointment enables you to process your email according to a plan. If you don't follow a plan, your continually arriving email, instead of you, will insidiously become the driving force of your day.
Begin changing your habits today. Make an appointment with yourself, someplace you won't be disturbed. At your office, use your PC; the convenience of a full screen and keyboard, proximity to your files/folders, and simple access to your calendar will speed the process up. Afterwards, shut down the email program, and get on with your work.
How often must you check your email? Start with three appointments a day with yourself as you figure out what works best for you. Check your email when you arrive at work to see what happened overnight; take another look around lunchtime for what happened in the morning; and dive in once more before going home to see what took place in the afternoon that you might have to deal with the next day. That should take 1&fra12; hours a day, maximum. It may take more at first, until the principles start working for you, and you might find that other times of day work better. Just make sure the time you set aside is undisturbed time. Or, you might have to use your Smartphone without the benefit of nearby office conveniences, in which case you just do the best you can. But if you find yourself spending three or four hours a day processing email when that is not your primary job, you are way off target—wasting time, adding pressure, and compromising both your performance and your personal life.
Some people believe you shouldn't look at your email first thing in the morning, because it might derail you from your plan for the day or hijack your priorities. That's a legitimate concern; however, you are not in business alone. What if something happened overnight, perhaps in a different time zone, that requires a change in plans—a customer asking to move a deadline up or back, say? Maybe requirements for a proposal change. In that case, preparing the proposal based on the old requirements would be a wasted effort.
As an alternative, if you know that reading email first thing would throw you off, you could plan your next day carefully the night before, after processing your last batch of email. In the morning, do what you planned for the first hour or two before checking your inbox. The main thing is not to let email, which will arrive continuously throughout the day, become your spontaneous ToDo list. Email is for communications. You are supposed to manage it; it should not manage you, and your priority cannot be to automatically respond to the needs of others, unless that is your job. That said, of course be mindful of responding to colleagues or others who can't move forward with their own work until they hear from you. Speedily responding to a half-dozen messages in the morning, when called for, helps keep the larger organizational machine chugging along. It's like directing traffic: You go here. You go there. Wait. Slow down. Back up. Stop. With these kinds of messages, you want to get in, quickly, help others and get on with your day. You have your own agenda, and you owe it to yourself to do what you're being paid to do, and in the time frame you're being paid to do it.
Excerpted from Unload Email Overload by Bob O'Hare Copyright © 2012 by Bob O'Hare. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Two Processing Method....................9
Three Personalizing Your Email Experience....................23
Four Detailed Inbox Processing....................33
Five Sending an Email....................49
Six Group and Team Email....................59
Seven Special Applications....................71
Eight Exploring Productivity: A Guide for Managers....................83
Appendix Mastering Email™ At-A-Glance....................105
About the Author....................107
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Nowadays who hasn't at times felt overwhelmed with email, business as well as personal? If you are among the overwhelmed then this concise book is the one to read. If lays out an easy to follow plan that as the title states will help you Unload your Email Overload. Sam P.
Super book. It's filled with many excellent, timesaving suggestions. Three of my favorites are: empty in-box every day, limit time spent on checking emails to about three times a day and delete any email that says "send to 10 friends". Book is a goldmine of information. Strongly recommend!
As a desktop computer pioneer, Bob O’Hare is without a doubt familiar with technology and its intended use. I was impressed with his book, “Unload Email Overload”. In it he shares his long-standing expertise and provides tips for folks at all levels of the mastering email spectrum to help them manage email overload and conquer their inboxes. It’s an applicable piece and I recommend it for anyone’s bookshelf – in the office and at home.
As a busy professional, email was attempting to dictate my priorities. Unload Email Overload prompted me to take action on stale emails and organize my inbox. It's an concise book that shows how productivity can increase if emails are managed properly and methods to process email effectively. Now that my inbox is pretty much empty each day, I feel less stressed and can focus on what really matters. I recommend it to anyone with an active email account. It's an enlightening read!
Well-researched, insightful, and highly actionable methodology! This is a great resource for anyone who finds themselves underwater, drowning in emails and unable to break free. Mr. O'Hare is an experienced business consultant and one thing I enjoyed in the book is his many allegories and specific information related to corporate executives, mid-level managers, and others dealing with email overload from inside of large organizations. The book discusses the costs of email overload quite cogently, so I would recommend it especially for senior executives trying to decide how seriously to take email overload within their organizations. Is it something worth putting on the agenda this quarter? The author's analyses and links to outside calculators are a great resource to help figure this out. I also felt that the "steps" offered in the book are quite manageable. I've read a few things such as GTD and various methodologies that seem to be a bit too involved for anyone not trying to attain a PhD in email management. The methods in this book, by contrast, are not so numerous as to be unmanageable--the steps are logical and not confusing. On the whole, a very well researched and insightful book on a complex topic, with a simple step-by-step action plan that will lead to email success.
This book is a very practical book for dealing with all issues concerning one of our modern tools for communication. The author takes an engineer's and problem solver's view of the subject. My father and one of my brothers were pioneers of e-mail in Germany, and for me using it is like second nature. My father's vision for e-mail with his company GeoNet was to facilitate global communication. E-mail has now become commonplace and even a burden to many people, which it should not be. It is still a great and one of my favorite tools, for keeping in touch with people scattered around the globe in various time zones, allowing for a response at leisure. It is so ingrained in me to look at my e-mail first thing in the morning, that it is like brushing my teeth. There is nothing better for me in the morning than seeing an e-mail from loved ones that live far away. Bob O'Hare's book taught me a thing or two too -- I thought I knew everything there was to know about the subject having grown up with it. Following the book's advice, I now have turned off my incoming mail sound, and surprise, surprise, I feel less stressed! I am also more diligent now in emptying my mailbox as he recommends, as well as trying to wean myself off the habit of checking my e-mail too often. One key piece of advice that also resonated with me is: don't use e-mail for conversations, but rather use the phone or better yet face to face contact. While I think the book is primarily geared towards the company employee or business user, it nonetheless taught me, the casual user some new tricks. It is a well researched, thoughtfully laid out, and contemporary book that should benefit every type of user.
A friend told me about this book. I've had it a little over a week now and so far I've learned three really useful timesaver-type strategies. In my work life I handle alot of emails but am not at all a techie--so I wasn't sure that this book would give me ideas I could use easily, without spending alot of time figuring out how to move files around in fancy new ways. Nice surprise that the tricks suggested are do-able. One more thing--this is the kind of book you can open up when you don't have much time because you can poke around a little and come away having learned something useful. Definitely recommend it for non-techie, very busy people whose jobs require alot of emailing.
Free at last! After reading Chapter One, I began applying the simple strategies laid out in Unload Email Overload. I had not realized how much I was held hostage to my email distractions until this concise book of action reminded me that I am in charge of my precious time, my work day, and my communications. Written to assist the savvy professional and personal email user, Unload Email Overload is simple, immediately applicable, and thought provoking. You will improve your communication style, productivity, and sanity by following this Executive Consultant’s time proven method. Sharing this book with others will benefit your inbox as well.