Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Save Your People from Drowning in Email

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Email has become one of the biggest detriments to productivity.

Your team members are spending 28% of their workweek dealing with email: reading it, responding to it, processing it. In other words, an entire day of a five-day workweek is spent on email.

Is email really that important?

Of course, email provides convenience. We can communicate across the globe instantly. When email becomes an overload of unnecessary communication, however, the burden outweighs the benefit.

Check Yourself First

Start by making sure you're part of the solution, not the problem.

If you like to communicate by email about everything...
If you like to use group emails to discuss projects, tasks, clients, and the company holiday party...
If you keep multiple email threads going with multiple employees every day...
If you expect immediate replies to your emails...

...then you might be part of the problem.

If you have trained your employees that they must be immediately responsive to every email you send, guess what? You've trained them that they have to be immediately responsive to every email that everyone sends.

That sort of email obsessiveness will keep your people fr om doing the real work.

Start by changing your own email usage. Lim it the emails you send. Do email in batches instead of in a continual stream all day long. And include a timeline for responses: "Please respond by end of day," or "Please let me know by next week," or "Please respond within the hour."

Your attitude toward email will help your people to feel free to use their own time wisely as well, instead of hopping and twitching every time their email notification dings.

Try Email-Free Times

Let your team members know that they are free to ignore email most of the time.

Our digital inboxes reduce productivity by dinging us with distractions. We get focused, head-down, on a project, and the beep or buzz or ding rips us away from it.

No matter how unimportant the email itself is, the energy and focus lost to dealing with that incoming buzz can totally derail productivity.

Encourage your employees to have email-free times to work: they can turn off notifications, shut down the email tab, and focus without any worries about what is appearing in their inboxes.

Instead of responding to email whenever that ding happens, they can focus fully on the task at hand, knowing that they are free to respond to email in their own time.

Batch Process for Email

Batch processing is the simple practice of doing a batch of similar tasks together, and it allows us to do those tasks in a more streamlined method and with more efficient results.

Email works really well in a batch processing method. Encourage everyone to choose a couple of times each day - perhaps once in the morning and once later in the afternoon - to read, answer, and otherwise process emails. This practice enables them to tackle an inbox with a batch processing approach, and work through a stack of emails in an efficient way.

Back Your Team Up

Let your team know that you will back them up with demanding clients.

If your team is working with clients who expect instant responses to email, let your people know that you stand with them in a saner approach to the inbox.

Remind them that they can stick to their productive email practices, such as email-free times and batch processing. Take a proactive approach: many times demanding clients will be much more understanding if they know what to expect and why.

Email Effectively

Use targeted subject lines, especially for in-house communication, so that no one has to dig through a paragraph of email body to figure out what's going on.

Encourage the people on your team to be brief and clear in their emails. They should ask for specific responses and name timelines when appropriate (*Please respond by tomorrow, I need this information by next Monday)*.

Using email productively is a matter of establishing good team habits. The more you educate and encourage productive email use, the better you and your team will be at it.

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See also:
Free CRM tools
Best CRM for small business
Free web based CRM software
Free sales management software
Free Real Estate CRM software
Ideal CRM for small companies

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Top Calendar Management Tips

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Tired of your calendar causing more confusion than clarity?

Use these pro tips to handle your crowded calendar and get back in charge of your time.

Build Trust with Your Calendar

If you don't use your calendar well, and check it regularly, you can't trust it.

And if you don't trust your calendar - and really, yourself to use it well - then you won't be helped by having a calendar.

Mentally you won't be able to get the relief you should from dumping all time-bound information into your calendar. You will suspect your calendar, and depend on your brain to remember and remind you. The problem is that your brain isn't very reliable.

A calendar, used well and regularly, is reliable. But you have to use it well in order to trust it, and you have to trust it in order to benefit from it.

Check Your Calendar Often

At a minimum, you should check your calendar every morning to see what's on the schedule for the day. What events await you? What does your timeline for the day look like?

You should also check your calendar every night. What's ahead on the next day? Go ahead and prepare, get out clothes, and otherwise make the next day easier on yourself.

Enter All Recurring Events

A digital calendar will give you the ability to add events at designated recurring times. Anything that happens on a recurring basis - such as meetings, a class, or a time-bound task (weekly grocery shopping, for instance) should go on your calendar. You shouldn't have to remember to keep putting it back on there.

If you use a paper calendar, work ahead and enter recurring events into the future.

Schedule in Prep Time

A mistake many people make is to pop any and all deadlines onto the calendar. That's great, but it's only the first step.

You have work to do before the deadline. When should that work be done?

There's a meeting on Tuesday; but you need to prepare for it before Tuesday, right? Block out time on your Monday afternoon: "Meeting prep, 2pm to 3pm."

The same principle applies to any deadline you enter into your calendar. Putting a deadline does nothing unless you also schedule in time to do the prep work needed so that you can be ready for that deadline.

Build Buffer Time into Your Schedule

Transitions are inevitable. Even the most efficient systems require time for transitions.

Humans, capable as we might be, are not the most efficient systems, and when you have other humans around, transitions get even longer.

You need physical transition times, and you also need mental time to decompress and refocus. Requiring yourself to jump immediately from one task or area to another can leave you stressed and confused.

Building in buffer time relieves the feeling of urgency which can be debilitating. Knowing that you have a little wiggle room in your schedule can help you to relax and be more productive; the feeling that you're scheduled so tightly you can't waste even a minute will make you feel nervous and make more mistakes.

Use Your Schedule for Your Priorities

The most regular item on your calendar shouldn't be meetings, events, or appointments, but the time you choose to block out for your highest priorities.

What are your main focus areas, your highest priority tasks?

Block out a period of time to work on each focus area or priority task regularly.

Daily may be too often, but weekly may not be often enough. It depends on the nature of your work and life. Try out several intervals and see what works.

You must make the decision to use your time for what matters most to you. No one else will make or enforce that decision for you. And they shouldn't have to.

Treat your blocked-out time just as seriously as you would any important meeting or event. If someone wants to schedule something during that time, decline politely. You already have plans then.

Your time is your own. By using your calendar the way productive people do, you begin to actively own your time and manage your life according to your values and priorities.

Bitrix24 is a free TBM (total business management) and business automation platform. Use promocode TIP10 whenregistering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:

- Want Innovation? Embrace Constructive Conflict, Says Innovation And Creativity Guru Jeff DeGraff
- What to Do When Your Team Isn't Working Together
- Gary Cokins - Automate everything, but not salary and incentives
- Bruce Tulgan - Employees Should Manage Their Bosses (And Here's How)
- Interview with practical futurist Michael Rogers
- Redbooth alternative