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Personal Improvement

How can I manage my email inbox?

You need to be disciplined about reading and filing your emails.

Tracey Foulkes



My inbox is always full. How can I manage my emails better?

Most people receive around 120 emails a day, and many of them are reading those mails more than twice before taking any action. It’s no wonder then that our Microsoft Outlook Productivity 1 hour demo is fast proving to be a 2013 top seller.

Reasons for exploding email inboxes

  • Not enough time
  • Too many emails received daily
  • Don’t know where to file mail
  • Need to keep it in case I’m asked for it
  • Add your excuse in here …

Dealing with the backlog

  1. Create a folder under your “inbox” entitled “old inbox up until 31 April 2013” (choose the date that works for you)
  2. Now drag all your old emails from your current inbox up to the 31st April 2013 into this folder
  3. If your inbox is not yet down to a manageable number, sort by “from” and working from the bottom up, clear your mails no longer needing an action out of your inbox

Good practices to help you move forward

  • Instead of checking email constantly throughout your day, break the obsession by scheduling 3-4 half hour intervals a day to check through your inbox to filter and process what’s come in since your last check-in
  • Remove ALL automatic email receipt notifications so you can’t be distracted by pings, beeps, changed screens and email envelopes. While you are at it, change the settings so that your email opens onto ‘Calendar’ instead of ‘Inbox’ to help you not get distracted by what’s in your inbox while you review what actions you need to take for the day

 There are only 3 action options for any incoming mail: Use the word FAD to help you remember these actions.

  • File: drag and drop the mail you need for reference or legal purposes into the appropriate folder
  • Action: If it needs to be actioned on a specific date at a specific time, right drag the email to your calendar immediately. If the action doesn’t yet have a specific date or time, either right drag it to your task manager or leave it in your inbox for prioritising at a later stage. Note: If it will honestly take you 2 minutes or less to reply to the mail you’ve just read, do it straight away
  • Delete: no elaboration required on this one. If you don’t need to keep the mail, press ‘delete’ now.

Finally, emails are meant for quick responses. Use bold headings and bullet points to get your point across. Actually, if you can contain the full message of your email in the subject line “Confirming 2pm for Thursday is a go” you will be well on your way to saving yourself (and the email recipient) some precious time.

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 or find her on Twitter as Tracey Foulkes or on LinkedIn as Tracey Foulkes.



  1. Pierre Viljoen

    Jul 26, 2013 at 11:39

    In addition to the above you can create a rule on your inbox checking if a mail is directed at you (you will be in the to: field) or if you are just being copied so you know about what is happening (you will be in the cc: field). Move all the cc email to a separate folder which you can check when you have the time. What is left is items that need you attention.

  2. SpitBraaiSA

    Jun 3, 2014 at 21:06

    Some awesome tips!! Quick thing – do you have a download link for your Microsoft Outlook Productivity 1 hour demo?

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Personal Improvement

Have You Fallen Off The New Year’s Resolution Wagon Already?

Stop lounging around the house ‘waiting for things to happen’… make it happen this year.

Daniella Shapiro




Making new year’s resolutions is the easiest part of getting back to reality. Setting pen to paper, while you lounge around in your PJs with a glass of sweet red, is a mental hiatus we all indulge in come 1st January. But is it procrastination in disguise?

Now that we’re fully in the swing of 2017 it’s back to business. Time to map out realistic goals.

How’s your current mind-set going to lead to a more productive, enriching work-life balance?

You’ve heard of “working smart” but have you heard about setting SMART goals? Don’t tense up in your recliner just yet, this isn’t your conscience talking. Yes, we all need clearly defined objectives in our love-lives and fitness routines.

Related: Your Top 10 Growth Moves For 2017

We’re not suggesting that you toss those more “feel-good” ambitions out the window. Your holistic wellbeing is paramount to success in the work place. We’re simply suggesting that you take a little time to work smaller deliverables into your daily routine.

A great example is to exercise that writing muscle. Effective written communication is a crucial skill to master in the workplace. But how do you improve on something you’ve been doing since grade school? Well, there’s writing emails and then there’s dedicated writing time.

According to Neil Patel, you should be setting aside at least 30 minutes every day to journal your thoughts. This is a fantastic way to develop a more disciplined, precise writing style.

Real talk: Finding more tangible ways improve your routine will help make 2017 your year to shine. The more quotidian aspects of personal growth can be pretty challenging too. Just don’t give up too soon. You know what the best way to eat an elephant is after all.

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Personal Improvement

How do I encourage my employees to adopt lifelong learning?

Lifelong learning requires a change in mindset and goes hand in hand with accountability.

Deidre Elphick-Moore



I am a firm believer in lifelong learning, but how do I get my employees to embrace this value?

It is important that you are clear about what lifelong learning means to you. You may have a different idea to those outlined by the South African government, which focuses on a framework of school-like learning activities that lead to qualifications that one can work towards throughout one’s life.

I’d like to suggest that lifelong learning is more than that. It is a mindset and a habit for people to acquire. What I am talking about can be referred to as ‘self-directed learning’.

“In its broadest meaning, ’self-directed learning’ describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identify human and material resources for learning, choosing and implement appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes”, (Knowles, 1975).

You’ll see from the date of this quote that this is not a new idea, yet it is relevant more than ever in our workforce.

Accountability is the first step

As we move away from a political motivated, post-apartheid sense of entitlement, both government and private enterprise alike are stressing the importance of accountability in the value systems of their staff.

Self-directed learning is another by-product of this much talked about value. So, before you begin to try to instil an understanding of and love for learning, you need to instil the idea that your staff members are accountable for their own futures, for their successes and failures and those of the business they work in.

Setting goals

Once your employees believe that they are accountable for their own life stories, they should begin to think about their goals and what they need to do to achieve those goals.  You can help them in a number of ways:

  1. Take the initiative: lead by example, talk to your employees about your own approach to self-directed learning, share experiences and case studies that show how easy it can be to apply
  2. Diagnosing their learning needs: if you don’t already have a performance management system, you need to implement one. It will provide a baseline that shows your staff what is expected of them and where there may be gaps in their knowledge or skills
  3. Formulating learning goals: people who engage in self-directed learning have a clear vision of what they want to achieve in life. It is important that you show your staff the benefits of personal growth, perhaps through incentive programmes or career development opportunities
  4. Choosing and implementing learning strategies: people have different learning styles and preferences. Some may learn best through experience, others may prefer to listen to lessons.Encourage your staff to look for daily opportunities to grow e.g. they can seek out advice from more experienced colleagues or they may observe star performers at work. Remind them that they can also learn about what not to do if they observe poor behaviour. There are many lessons to be learnt beyond the classroom.
  5. Evaluating learning outcomes: As part of your regular interactions with staff, ask them to outline something new that they have learnt every day, week or month. Encourage them to reflect on when, where and how they learnt. Through this evaluation, you will begin to see trends in their self-directed learning and they will be motivated by what they now see as an environment rich with learning opportunities

“Change is inevitable, complete coverage is impossible and obsolescence is unavoidable” (Author unknown). It is for these reasons that we need to continue to learn, to grow every day so that we can keep up with the world around us.

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Personal Improvement

Is it even possible to take a break from my business?

Proper planning means you can afford to step away from your business now and then.

Sipho Pilime



As a small business owner, I never seem to manage to have a proper holiday. How can I make sure that I have time to spend with my family over next year’s holiday season?

Most entrepreneurs fall into the trap for working 24/7 and never taking time out from their business.

The trick is to plan ahead so that you are freed up to take a much-needed break.

Things you need to set in place include appointing and training a manager who can run the business in your absence and properly documenting all systems and processes.

Read the full article here.


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