The other day Jim Lamb, Program Manager for Team Build, sent a link to our PM group about a series of posts that talked about managing your inbox with the goal of keeping it at “zero”. In the email he told us it was “seriously worth a read’ and after going through the content I definitely agree. Here is the link in case you are interested: http://www.43folders.com/izero/
As you can imagine, a significant part of program management is about communication, and this results in days filled with meetings and emails. You add to that the fact that Microsoft uses email very heavily (sometimes excessively … which I don’t understand because talking with people is a lot quicker and nicer J) and you have a recipe for disaster.
Since this is a problem for many of us I decided to blog about it and spread the word. Below you will find the techniques that I currently use to manage my email (I mostly got them from reading books and talking with really smart people). There are five:
Resist the immediate reply
Depending on the week or phase in our schedule I check email either 3 or 5 times a day. This allows me to NOT become a slave to email and the toaster messages that appear whenever a new comes in. I often turn Outlook off during those periods of time when I know that I am going to be working on something else. This, I think, is one of the hardest things to accomplish since immediate responses are very addictive.
Allocate the time
I usually allocate two periods of 30 minutes to do email and one to three periods of 15 minutes if necessary. If you are an excellent multitasker then you can cut those 15 minutes and do email during some of the meetings where your presence is merely for educational purposes.
Utilize the time of day where you are the most productive
For me that is in the morning between 9:00 and 10:00 AM. Whenever I have a long and complicated email to write I leave it for the morning and do it after taking care of 2-5 shorts ones so I get on a roll. My brain works better this way … don’t ask me why
Use software to help you!!!
Establish rules for filtering your email, establish rules for archiving your email (I don’t like archiving so I usually keep my delete folder with the last month content only), bottom line use rules. Outlook 2007 has great features for categorizing your email and I have fallen in love with them, seriously they have saved me hours when it comes to triaging and prioritization. So whatever software you are using learn the technology and use its features to help you succeed.
Delete, Delete, Delete
This gets mentioned, I think twice, on those posts but I think it is the greatest teaching. When you master the art of pressing that delete button together with the fact that only 10% of your emails actually require a reply you will reach the “zero” zone.
Hope you get a chance to read those posts at http://www.43folders.com/izero/ and start applying it at your work, it really pays off.