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Top tips from Mesmo Consultancy (and Associates) on how to save time and improve business and personal performance by ‘Taking Control of your Inbox’ and using proper business email etiquette.

Is email the only way? Thinking outside the inbox.

Monday February 5th, 2018, 11:14 am

Is email the only way?  We now have an array of digital communications from social media to the phone.  Last week a client complained at being emailed by another colleague who sat just five desk away.  How often does this happen to you? We have a love hate relationship with email: its fast and easy but not always the best communications channel.  An over dependence on email at the expense of other channels is one of the primary causes of email overload.  Yet how many of us make the effort to think outside the inbox before hitting send.

Very few judging by many of my client’s experiences.  However, some leading organisations are being innovative and for example banning all internal emails and having no email days in an effort to both reduce email overload and improve communications.  These range from high-tech companies to housing associations and architects.  Others are setting boundaries outside which its OK to stop checking emails.

My email behaviour will influence your behaviour here are three ways to encourage others to think outside the inbox.

1.     Provide an incentive for them to talk to you.

2.     Use an alternative tool to provide information which people really need, for example the form for requesting leave, a sales update, for example OneNote, a collaborative platform such as Slack or Yammer.

3.     Implement email free times and email free office zones.

To reduce the email dependency (and even email addiction) above all else make sure you create the role model: next time you are about to hit send, get up and walk and talk to the person. Try responding to external email with a phone call?  You might be pleasantly surprised at the extra information you pick up to help progress that important sale.

Indeed stopping checking emails is fast becoming the new stop smoking for some.

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Blue Monday – time to review how to reduce business email overload

Saturday January 13th, 2018, 10:12 pm

Resolutions or goals?

Blue Monday and you business email overload is still rampant. Fifteen days into the new year how well are you keeping to your new year’s resolutions? Maybe like me you did not even set any because it’s about goals rather than resolutions. A resolution is permanent, it’s immediate with effect from now for example, you will not answer emails after 9.30 pm. It’s a way of life. It can be hard.

Resolutions are good but sometimes things happen which make it hard to keep them. For example you are in the middle of major global business deal and need to check your emails late at night. With resolutions there is a feeling that you have now let yourself down. Indeed in a study psychologist Richard Wiseman found that 88% of people failed to achieve their resolutions. Whereas with goals they are more objective, specific, and long term provided they are smart.

The arguments for reducing business email overload have been well rehearsed here before and should be part of your business values. Then you can establish some smaller measurable steps to achieve it.

Smart goals for reducing email overload in 2018

Your goal might be to reduce the number of days you check email outside normal working hours to one (boundaries being before 8.30 am and after 9.30 pm)

Over time you can review and measure how often you achieve your goals and take small steps to either adjust the goal to a more realistic one or achieve it. In this case it might be to re-set either the time scales for checking emails or the number of times per week to make it more realistic for your work-life pattern.

You can reward yourself periodically as you achieve your goals – celebrate with a good bottle of wine. Conversely fine yourself for lack of achievement – none of your favourite coffee for a week.

This does not mean you cannot have a resolution and goals. A resolution might be to re-balance my work-life balance to spend more time with the family. Within that you need a set of smart goals to help you achieve this new equilibrium. Wiseman suggest that one of the keys to keeping resolutions is to make them public and have a graphic posted in a prominent place to remind yourself and others of your aim. Social media makes it easy to spread the word.

Identify what you need to achieve the goals. To restrict the times during which you check emails it might be using your email software better.  For instance, a rule to notify you about emails from very high priority contacts whilst ignoring the rest and setting two types of Out of Office Message (one for internal and one for external emails).

Based on the many workshops and webinars run over the last year here are seven goals for helping you and your business reduce email overload in 2018.

  1. Step away from email for at least one hour a day: use that hour to walk and talk to the senders.
  2. Stay focused on the task in hand and do not allow new emails to distract.
  3. Apply the 80:20 rule to help prioritise what emails are really necessary (ie 20% of the emails received will provide 80% of the information need).
  4. Reduce the number of people to whom each email is sent.
  5. Take action immediately after reading an email instead of glancing at it and leaving it lying fallow in the inbox. Use the 4Ds principle.
  6. Keep emails short which will help save everyone time (you the writer and the recipient when reading it).
  7. Only deal with emails between 8.30 am and 9.30 pm.

This way you can allow yourself an occasional day’s relapse, yet still feel you have made progress.

What are your goals for reducing email overload in 2018?

 

 

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Business Email Overload & Etiquette Articles of Note January 2018

Friday January 12th, 2018, 10:06 pm

To quote Louis Renault in Casablanca, ‘round up the usual suspect’.  This applies to the recent business email overload and etiquette articles. Leaving aside all the technology predictions, here are five articles which caught our attention and are worthy of your too. Press room

1. Curb digital addiction with these resolutions. We wish we had written this ourselves. Although the slant is on men’s addiction the article really applies to us all. It contains some very practical and easy steps to wean yourself of those smart phones and tablets. For example write something in a book and share it for others to add some comments. Phone a friend instead of texting them.

2. Porsche urged to ban emails out of hours. There is a certain irony and black humour about the Porsche trying to reform their own workforce. After all, are these not one of the most prized status symbols of those who are often the worst offenders for sending late night out of office hours emails? However, other companies are continuing to adopting similar policies to reduce email overload and help people re-build their work-life balance.

3.‘Starwars’ ‘whatever’ other terrible passwords. Starwars and Whatever are among eleven new entries into the list of the worst passwords. Poor password management is worrying in a time when each day new cyber attacks are revealed. Click here to learn how to create a really strong password.

4. How I love thee, email? Let me count the ways I hate its alternativesWhy do many of the time saving alternatives to email not realise their full potential? We are talking about applications like Slack, Facebook for Business, Google Drive etc. The author Rhymer Rigby likens it to communism ‘communism would be great if only it was done properly’. It is all too easy to blame the real-user, when these new tools fail become embedded in our every day working practices (ie you and I). Is this true or is there something else missing, such as adequate training and leadership from the top? These are all great ways to reduce email overload too, so it not time to make them work?

5. iPhone users: upgrade to iOS 11.2.2 Both the new Spectre and Meltdown security flaws can effect iOS devices and users are being urged to update as soon as possible. It’s not often that Apple admits it devices might be susceptible to such flaws so when they do it’s worth listening.

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Email etiquette to protect your professional image over the silly season

Wednesday December 13th, 2017, 2:34 pm

It’s that time of year when it’s easy to become complacent and let our email etiquette slip.  Coming back from a festive lunch (drink or even dinner) you decide to clear the email backlog and are in a frivolous mood.  Then there are all those Santa hats and jumpers you wear.

To some extent they are OK because they are here today and gone tomorrow and few remembers what you were wearing a week ago. However, like a puppy and kitten, an email is for life despite your best endeavours to recall it!

Here are five top tips on business email etiquette to preserve your professional image when all about you are losing their heads.

  1. Never email under the influence of drink (before, during or after Christmas) when your judgement and vision could be impaired.
  2. Delay sending any emails by two minutes.  Either manually save them as drafts or write a rule to delay sending by two minutes.
  3. Add a sentence of best wishes, by all means but that’s it.  Keep to your usual professional greeting and sign off.   Leave all the cosy ones for social emails (eg Hiya, kisses and emoticons).
  4. Keep you Out of Office message safe and simple. Give away as little information to prying eyes as possible. Be bold, tell senders that all your emails are being deleted over the festive break and to resend anything important on your return.
  5. Be extra vigilant about any unfamiliar emails from both unknown senders and existing contacts where the email has an unusual subject-line/content. They may have been hacked and the hackers are now extending their tentacles. Such unusual emails nearly always are either taking you to bogus websites to capture your personal details or the start of a cyber attack.

You might also want to avoid letting colleagues (and friends) post images of you on their social media sites with those fun hats etc.  Although you can delete your posts, you do not not have control over other people’s sites.  2018 might be when you look for a new job and recruiters often look in depth at candidates internet foot prints before making a judgement.

 

 

 

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Declutter to reach Inbox Zero over the festive season

Wednesday December 13th, 2017, 2:29 pm

Inbox Zero

Inbox zero was a phrase coined by Merlin Mann to epitomise email efficiency.  Now it is regarded by many include Mann as perhaps a way to waste time yet still feel like you are working hard. However at this time of year we can all profit from spending a little time de-cluttering and getting ready for the new year.   In this context reaching ‘inbox zero’ makes an excellent goal.  Here are five quick ways to clean and de-clutter your inbox to reach inbox zero over the festive season

  1. Move all emails over two weeks old to a folder outside your inbox. Basically anything that old is well past its sell-by date. If it isn’t you can be sure that the sender will re-contact you.
  2. Start the folder name with full stop and it will sit at the top of the folder list. Alternatively for Outlook users, you can add it to your Favorites.
  3. Review what is left and decide what else to move out and what still needs action. Use the Conversation view/Sort by Subject/Sender etc to sort.
  4. Set aside time each day to action any emails which really, really warrant your attention. Highlight those for attention after the break (move to a ‘Pending’ folder, create a task etc).  With many people in festive mood, some emails might gain more attention if left until January 2nd!
  5. Move all the remaining emails out to the folder created in Step 1.

By now you should have a relatively clean inbox. If not – simply declare Email Bankruptcy.

Still too many emails in your inbox and no place to put them?  Why not ask Mesmo Consultancy to run a Smart Email Management Masterclass in the new year?

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