Archive for the 'communication' Category

I get emails, but there’s nothing in my email inbox

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Curious about Communication | Email Organization


On a whim last summer, I challenged myself to actually empty my email inbox.
It took me a few weeks.
It was pretty weird to see nothing in my inbox.  And pretty nifty too.
Then I tried to empty it every day.
Some days I can.
Most days, there’s still about 10-20 straggler emails.

From my interviews, the people who were able to empty their email inbox consistently had a few guidelines:
1)  short, concise emails
2)  delete or archive immediately after replying to the email
3)  reply immediately
4)  never touch anything more than once (from the Getting Things Done school of thought).

When you open the email, you decide to do one of the following:
a)  answer it
b)  delegate to someone else
c)  take action if need be
d)  file it away as reference
e)  delete it

I’ve been using a modified version of Getting Things Done.
It took some getting used to, but it’s been helpful in taming my email inbox.
It’s a good habit to form, like brushing your teeth every day.
Too bad there’s no email dentist to constantly remind you to clear the inbox every day.

Is your email inbox proactive or reactive?

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Curious about Communication | Email Organization


Many of you have 20-50 emails to answer daily.
Then what?
Each day, that many more emails comes in and soon your inbox is overflowing.
How do you organize your inbox?
In my research and interviews, I encountered a few common methods for dealing with the email inbox.

1)  Keep all emails, answered and unanswered, in the inbox.

Result:  insanely huge amount of emails in inbox (see my November 1 blog post).
Pros:  use search tool to find emails when needed.
Cons:  sometimes can’t find the emails needed.  Curse the search tool.


2)  Answer as many emails as possible, with 30-90 hanging around in the inbox each day.

Result:  30-90 emails fits pretty well on your computer screen, all others are safely archived in mailbox folders
Pros:  manageable amount of emails to answer.
Cons:  daily grind of answering that many emails.  Will it never end?


3)  Answer all emails and remove them from inbox, except for a few floating reference or action emails.

Result:  at most 10 emails in inbox.
Pros:  it’s easy to see at a glance what needs to be done, just 10 reminders of what you need to do.
Cons:  need to dig through archives if something needs to be revisited.  Rue your overefficiency.


4)  Zero emails in inbox.  Answer and empty it every day.

Result:  feelings of exhilaration, minimalist aesthetic.
Pros:  Possible tendency to become workaholic or to feel smugly superior to others due to ability to completely clear inbox (even if it’s at 3am, meaning you have no life).
Cons:  need to maintain extensive mailbox folders; need to hunt through other mailboxes to answer the emails.

Since many people didn’t grow up with so much communication and didn’t receive any formal training in how to organize their email program, it is interesting to see the different approaches.

Which one is the best?

Each system seemed to work for that person.
I’ll go into more details tomorrow.

Carl Sagan said it: billions upon billions

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Curious about Communication | Email Trends


Many of you have taken this holiday as a day off.
What’s happening with your email today?
Have you resisted the urge to check it?

Why I ask (while I stuff myself with turkey confit) is that I know when I take a day off or when I travel, my email piles up.
I come back to what seems like billions upon billions of emails!  It can seem daunting.
It’s probably why everyone checks email all day long, just to keep the volume at a level that’s manageable.
Wondering if anyone else feels so slammed by the deluge, I asked people in my interviews how many emails they got each day.

100-300 emails per day

[Included the following items]
Product Announcements
Goofy Jokes from your mom
honest-to-goodness communications

Of those, how many really, truly needed a response:
20-30 emails per day

(with a few people having to answer 30-50 emails per day)

I know this can’t hold true for everyone, but it was consistent in my little survey.

20-30 emails…
Doesn’t seem like that many.
Can it truly be that difficult to answer those and do so in a timely fashion?

P.S.  Email Overachievers:
If you have over 100 emails to answer every day:
a)  I salute you
b)  share your tips for getting it done!

P.P.S.  Yesterday, the day before a major holiday in a recession during the shopping season totally hijacked my average results.   I received over 300 emails of newsletters, sales, and coupons.  My deleting finger is tired!