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For the Love/Hate of Email

Awesome tool or terrible distraction? How do you feel about email? Here’s how to use your inbox well – without losing valuable time.

Tracey Foulkes

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Seriously, I love email. Almost as much as I love chocolate and that is saying a lot. My colleague, Claire Burge, my junior by two decades and based in technology hub Ireland, hates it. We are at battle in finding the middle ground.

Analysing the yin/yan of this situation gets me arguing for/against the same points. You see, the things I love are all the things she hates and if I am perfectly honest, I can see her side almost as clearly as I can see mine.

So while Claire is lobbying “no more email”, I am advocating “let’s maximise this awesome tool.” This is my why and my how:

  1. Granted there are restrictions for users on platforms other than Microsoft Outlook, if this means you; you can benefit from a crash course on integrating email with Evernote. For everyone else I recon getting more organised can go a long a way to increasing your productivity: email is more than just send/receive.
  2. If you, like more than half of your colleagues, are checking email 30-40 times an hour, remove all automatic mail receipt notifications. The temptation of the ping, envelope icon, changed cursor or message alert displaying in the bottom right of your computer screen is way too great. Studies show that it can take as much as 20 minutes to get back to the same peak focus when you drop a task and hop to another. Schedule 3 x 30 minute email check-ins per day and work smart during this time to read, respond, file or delete your mail at this time.
  3. If you do nothing more than number 2 above you would have saved yourself a whopping 10% in productivity time. However, this is not enough considering the wasted hours spent in email overwhelm. If you are using Outlook calendar as your diary of choice, change your setting so that your email opens onto calendar instead of inbox. This gives you an overview of your day ahead without drawing you into reactive mode by checking your inbox. Note:  Calendar is used for scheduled tasks/meetings that have a specific date and time.
  4. The task tool acts as your to-do list. This is a running list of things you need to action/wait for/delegate/read that is not date or time specific.
  5. From your inbox and during your 30 minute check-in, try to get into the habit to right-click dragging and dropping your emails onto the calendar or task icon at the bottom left menu bar. This gives you the option of dragging your email out of your cluttered inbox for auctioning when due.
  6. Other cool Outlook tools that are super time savers and too good not to mention:
  • If you can encapsulate the full content of your email in the subject line, don’t bother writing a message. Type EOM (End of Message) at the end of your subject and push send. Both you and Bob get to save time; you in the writing, him in the reading and you both know, with clarity, that “the Sept board meeting is confirmed for the 19th EOM”.
  • Microsoft Outlook understands English. Instead of selecting the down arrow key to scroll for the right time and/or date, simply place your cursor in the text block to the left of the down arrow and type: next thurs, 2nd fri in jan, valentine’s day, 12:00, etc. and away you go.
  • Typed in capitals and now need to toggle the font from upper to lower case? Highlight the text that needs changing and hold shift + F3 to toggle the text till it appears as you need it.
  • “Notes” is a great place to hold those odd bits of information. Make sure you use the top line of the note as the subject and then type away things like: login details (use a code to help you remember your passwords), service provider reference numbers and even your shopping list.
  • Quick cheat to taking charge of your inbox so you can move forward with good habits: create a new folder called “Inbox @XYZ date” (choose a date 2 months before today) and drag and drop all your inbox items that are up to that date into this new folder. Now that your inbox is looking a little more manageable, use FAD (file – action – delete) for processing all future mails and drag mails from your inbox into folders, notes, contacts (to file for future reference or legal purposes), into your calendar and tasks (for things that still require an action). For everything else, press delete.

PS:  While writing this blog I learnt, via an email arriving serendipitously into my inbox, that the first email was sent 40 years ago – the year of my birth. Just one more reason to love it!

Tracey Foulkes wows audiences with her sharp wit, quick reactions and personable sense of humour. She speaks about procrastination, business productivity, personal motivation and time management. . If you want your team to be inspired to operate outside of the box, contact her for a complimentary productivity assessment, email tracey@getorganised.co or find her on Twitter as Tracey Foulkes or on LinkedIn as Tracey Foulkes.

Get Organised

How to Calculate the True Monetary Value of Your Time

As an entrepreneur, your time is precious. To protect it, you must know exactly what it’s worth.

Nathan Resnick

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time-management-advice

Do you know the value of your time? Ken Segall, creator of Apple’s famous ‘Think Different’ ad campaign for agency Chiat/Day, said he got thrown out of a meeting once by the founder of his agency, Jay Chiat.

“Why are you here?” he asked Segall and the art director, who’d shown up with everybody else. “We’re just responding to the invitation,” said Segall. Chiat told them to get lost. “Go create something,” he said.

Jay Chiat knew the value of his creative people’s time. He knew it wasn’t worth it for them to go into that meeting when they could be putting together the next big ad campaign. They were more valuable to the company doing the creative work that made it run than attending a meeting.

That’s what knowing the value of your time can do for you; it tells you what’s most important. Time is the one resource all of us have, but it’s also painfully finite in nature. You can’t bank it — all you can do is invest 
it wisely.

As an entrepreneur, if you don’t know the true monetary value of your time, how are you going to prioritise your business and your life? What does it take to find the monetary value of your time?

Invest your time

Be aware that your time is likely to appreciate in value. If you’re a founder or running a successful business, your time’s value will increase as your business does. Sooner or later, the monetary value of your time is going to surpass the importance of money. It’ll be more important for you to invest your time in moving the business forward because your time is going to be worth more. So, invest your time on process early, lest you spend it later putting out fires.

Related: 5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

Crunch the numbers

James Clear

Entrepreneur James Clear decided to approach this problem systematically — he talked to everyone from poker players to executive coaches to figure out what the optimal method of measuring his time’s value was.

Then, he sat down and tracked every hour for three months. The upshot of that time investment was a very clear process that you can use to lay out what your time is worth.

First, figure out the amount of time you spend to earn money. That’s not just time spent working. Are you commuting? That’s time you’re using towards work that’s not going elsewhere. School? That counts. Drop the kids off at school? Add it on.

If it’s related to the time you spend earning money, add it on. Clear’s estimate guesses that most full-time employees and entrepreneurs spend around 2 500 hours a year on this (his exact estimate for himself came out to 2 742).

Then, figure out how much you earn in take-home pay per year. That calculation should be pretty simple, though if you’re a business owner, it’ll be a little more complex as you figure out taxes and withholding.

Divide your total earnings by the hours you spend to earn it. That’s your time’s value.

Surprised? It’s probably lower than you expected, especially if you calculated the extra hours devoted to things like dropping of kids at school or commuting accurately. We don’t often think of our work value in terms of total hours spent.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Time Management Is Such A Waste Of Time

Create a system of checks and balances

You don’t want to just rely on that, though. Maybe you’re being underpaid (or underpaying yourself, if you’re an entrepreneur — don’t laugh, it’s more common than you think). Maybe another factor is throwing it off, or your math has 
an error.

Consider a few other factors:

  • What do other people make to do your job?
  • What would you pay someone else to do your job?
  • What could you make on the open market if you were to go find another job?

Run those numbers against each other to determine an average. For entrepreneurs, this changes everything. Once you understand this number, it’ll change the way you approach everything in your business and your life.

Know what your own time is worth. Remind yourself of it constantly. If you do, you’ll find yourself more productive, more efficient, more satisfied, and more successful.

So, what are you waiting for? Invest wisely.

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Get Organised

(Infographic) 9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making In The First 10 Minutes Of Your Day

From setting goals to drinking coffee, these bad morning habits might surprise you.

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There are a number of things you’re probably doing every morning that are actually hindering your productivity.

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you might be surprised to find out that drinking coffee between 8 and 10 a.m can make you more stressed throughout the day. That’s because caffeine early in the morning interferes with the time that the stress hormone, cortisol, is peaking in your body. It’s best to get your fix between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

When you get into the office and try to jump right into the top of your to-do list, you might find yourself confused and not very productive. When you don’t let your brain empty and refresh before starting a project or task, it loses a sense of control, becomes overwhelmed and ultimately, makes you less productive. Something else to avoid is checking email or social media right when you wake up. Typically, after checking your inbox, it takes a person at least 25 minutes to get back into a productive state. If you start your day off reading and responding to email after email, it will take you a long time to get back on track.

Another surprising mistake is setting self-imposed goals. Setting goals and deadlines for yourself might seem like an obvious productivity hack, but it turns out, that’s not the case. Instead, share your deadlines with others and you’ll feel more pressure and responsibility to get things done.

Related: 5 Surprising Elements That Boost Your Productivity (One of Them Is Colour)

Check out resume.io’s infographic below for more productivity mistakes you’re likely making in the first 10 minutes of your day.

1538429589_9-productivity-mistakes-infographics-7934969f76af5ebe1b5b0b84ce9053ec43752717512fb7d9339e84f86afe91d1

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Workflow And Business Efficiency – 5 Strategies You Ignore At Your Peril

Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. You’re not still depending on email, are you?

Toby Nwazor

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business-efficiency

An inefficient business can cost you a lot more than just growth – it can affect your revenue, too. According to a report by IDC, your business runs the risk of losing 20 to 30 percent of your revenue due to inefficient systems.

Unfortunately, many companies still struggle to implement the right systems to improve their workflow. Others have it worse, because they have no systems. In those situations, projects take ages to be completed, more time is spent on menial tasks and teams never seem to get enough done during work hours.

If that describes your company, your company’s profits may start to plummet, too.

Every successful business, then, has clearly defined systems to help the business run like clockwork. Improved workflow, better management and business efficiency save time, increase the bottom line and ensure a higher profit margin.

In fact, in an article on ContractZen, Tim Cummins, president of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management, wrote that, “The average corporation could boost its bottom line by almost 10 percent if it invested in improving the quality of contracting.

For many companies – especially those in more complex, project-based industries – the prize could be much higher – perhaps as much as 15 percent.”

Related: Become A Life-Hacker

Unfortunately, some companies fail to provide systems that put users first, taking a negative toll on those companies’ workflow and efficiency. The good news is that they’re only five strategies away from turning this around:

1. Automate all you can

automated-emails

From email lists, bookkeeping, invoicing and contract management, to social media posts and payrolls, almost everything can be automated. For a business that aims to be more efficient, automation is a must.

Automation doesn’t just save you time, it can be the one strategy that can guarantee explosive growth and higher conversion rates. According to this Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness study, 63 percent of companies polled that were outgrowing their competitors said they had automated their marketing.

Automating monotonous tasks that have to be repeated several times during the day helps you be more productive in tasks that require your personal attention.

2. Invest in customer-relationship management software

It’s not uncommon to find businesses that are barely able to keep up with their leads. Some waste hours hunting the low-quality leads instead of focusing their energy on those ready to buy. Here, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution linked to these businesspeople’s network phone system is a great way to enhance customer communications.

Customers value businesses that provide excellent customer service. A CRM solution increases the ability to keep track of customer information, monitor leads and provide efficient delivery. Businesses can provide for their customers’ needs faster and make effective business decisions. With CRM, businesses can also keep their focus on quality leads that will drastically improve conversion rates.

Related: 11 Ways To Maximise Every Part Of Your Day

3. Set up a task-management system

slack-logo

Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. Email makes it difficult to carry everyone along. However, setting up task-management software like Slack, Trello or Asana makes it much easier to have everyone’s tasks in one place and ensure that everyone is carried along in the project.

Task-management software helps members of a team track their progress and ensure that everyone is working on their tasks.

4. Sync your calendar with that of everyone else on your team

How many times have you had to reschedule appointments because you didn’t know you had other meetings lined up for the day?

Aside from leaving negative impression in clients’ mind, this error makes you less productive. Having to go back and forth until you have settled on an appropriate date can be cumbersome especially when different time zones are involved. So, do this instead: Sync your personal calendar with your work calendar, and make sure that everyone in your team is synced to the latter, too.

This will ensure sure that everybody is “on the same page” in terms of appointments and deadlines. Google Calendar can help you do just that. Once everyone is synced up, any change in the calendar will be seen by everyone so they can manage their own appointments.

5. Block out chunks of time

time-management

Constant interruptions hamper your workflow. Imagine having to deal with turning over a project on a deadline while you’re stuck in a series of meetings throughout the day. It can get very difficult to focus on completing your most urgent tasks.

Block out chunks of time on your calendar for uninterrupted work. It’s better to schedule a series of meetings in one day than to spread them throughout the week.

If you’re creating content, block out one day to create all the content you’ll use for the week. That way your business will run more efficiently.

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change

Wrapping it up

With the right strategies, you can turn your business around to make it efficient and lucrative. Automating your processes, setting up the right software and remaining focused on the tasks at hand will go a long way to help you do this. But just as with every good strategy, you need to remain consistent and give it time to do its magic.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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