Inbox Zero?

InBox Zero

Recently Inbox Zero popped up again. Not a surprise considering summer holidays in the Northern Hemisphere are coming to an end.

Automated responses

The BBC ran an article 2 days ago where German car maker Daimler offered employees to delete holiday emails in a very friendly way:

I am on vacation. I cannot read your email. Your email is being deleted. Please contact Hans or Monika if it’s really important, or resend the email after I’m back in the office. Danke Schoen.

Comments are consequently positive: “This is good email management.” It doesn’t address the standard flood of emails although it makes the re-start after being away a lot easier and not daunting.

Another approach is trialled by the Christchurch City Council. The management team implemented a suggested response when the recipient is “just copied in”. The response reads similar to this:

“Thank you for your email. As I’m just copied in, your email has been parked in my “for info” folder. I’ll endeavour to check those emails once a week. If your correspondence is urgent please re-send it to me directly with your expectations of my action.”

The objective is to reduce cluttering email inboxes with information that doesn’t require an urgent action by the recipient or in short to reduce clutter.

Most email applications allow for such automated actions via rules and filters, and categories, folders and labels.

Decisions

While the technology allows for such things, it’s up to us humans to actually do it. That means,

  1. consider your response types (do, reply, defer, delegate, archive, delete or see the original post from Merlin Mann),
  2. create good auto- and template responses,
  3. and then actually do it.

The reality looks, unfortunately, different. Some follow their good intentions and put such actions into place while others don’t. There are some good and not so good reasons:

  • a full inbox means I’m busy
  • I actually like having that many emails
  • the Inbox search is great – why hiding important stuff in many folders
  • those rules are too complicated
  • I fear I miss important stuff
  • people expect I’m informed what’s going on
  • the tools don’t match how I work

Some options

Hey, it’s your Inbox, isn’t it?

or

Could we check how you work and see if there is a process that can be adjusted, another tool be found, or expectations managed more efficiently? There are systems like Sanebox, or MailBox, Mailstrom, and Tapermail that all take a different approach. And there is this blogpost for Outlook fans. One might work for you well 🙂

 

The positive side of Distractions

Everybody hates distractions. They annoy the crap out of busy people. Just yesterday I had one person telling me that he is falling behind with his work schedule because of distractions. “How do you do it?”, he said, “I just stopped you doing what you were immersed in. And still you don’t seem angry about it.”

Let’s step back.

You are working on an important task where other people depend on. The phone rings. You pick it up, some one has a problem and thought you were the best person to help. 10 minutes later you pick up were you left your task. It takes some time to get back into that train of thought. A knock at the door. “Excuse the interruption”, the person says, “I’m looking for Joe. Has he moved office?” You slowly get annoyed. Even these brief 2 minutes cost you much more than that. You look at the watch and at your calendar, 15 minutes until the budget meeting starts. You are not going to complete the current task before that. No point of starting again. You check your emails instead and add another 3 distraction tasks to your list. Just enough time before the meeting to tell your boss how busy you are.

Sounds familiar?

Feels bad?

It’s like everybody holding you back, 2 steps forward and one back. Right? Continue reading