4 Easy Steps to Reduce What’s In Your Inbox

Are you bombarded by email, texts, tweets, posts and instant messages?  I’m not talking about the fun ones from your friends.  I’m talking about the ones you get from your boss, colleagues, clients and other people in your workplace.   I could easily spend all day trying to sift though all these messages, not to mention the time I spend trying to respond to each one. To top that, at least half the messages people send me don’t really need my attention.


So what do we do with the emails we don’t think we need?  The tendency for many people is to delete the email and prioritize how we tackle responding to the rest.  You may even find yourself feeling anxiety or anger when someone sends you a seven paragraph email when they could have been more concise.  After all, don’t they realize you are busy?

What we all forget is that to the sender, it was important enough to write.  The reason isn’t important.  What is important is that we should take time and acknowledge that it is that person’s work.  I use the term “work” in the sense of discretionary effort put forth with a specific outcome in mind, not actual value.

I don’t want you to spend all day dealing with only answering email or other messages.  What I  want you, and me, to do is realize that we shouldn’t just dismiss the work that someone else finds important.  What should we do?

  • If you ask for a report, read it when it is prepared.
  • If you receive an email, at least read through it once.
  • If you shouldn’t be copied on something, quickly and politely notify the sender to stop including you in the future.
  • If someone creates any work product for you that is not helpful or needed, advise them politely.  Either tell them what information would be helpful or that it is not needed going forward.

Not rocket science, I know.  Just small reminders that just deleting email and other messages won’t help clear your inbox.  You need to communicate with people about what you need, and most importantly, what you don’t.

Purge Your “To Do” List Today

IThe-word-Everything-on-a-To-Do-listf you’re like me, there are days or weeks when you feel overwhelmed.  It is actually normal to have moments like this but when it starts to keep you up at night, affects your eating habits or keeps you from being productive in your day-to-day, it’s time to take action.  The problem is that for most people, we just hate telling someone “no” or admitting that we have too much on our plates.

A Frank Discussion

I already know that every person that reads this article could benefit from off-loading several things from your to-do list.  I know this because people are all alike.  We allow others to pile on the work and we grumble about it to our family, friends or anyone else who will listen.  We whine about how hard we work when in reality, it’s all in our control.  For the few who work for tyrants, you probably just need a new job.  For the rest of us, it’s OUR issue, not our boss’ issue.  So, here’s how you fix it today:

  1. Make a list-  You really need to jot some items down so that you can know which ones to take off your plate.  Whether you scrawl it out on a Post-It note or type it in your task list, the important thing is to get it down so you know how much you’re dealing with. I’m still a fan of the old Franklin planners and also use an app called Opus Domini (like an electronic version of the Franklin planner) to keep my list current.
  2. Find at least two items you can delegate- If you have a team, this part should be easy because you can use delegation as a way to develop more junior team members.  If you do not manage a team, you must be more creative.  There are always ways to kindly delegate “opportunities” to colleagues and you just need to be assertive (not pushy) and explain why it makes sense to have their leadership or involvement on that particular item.  How do you decide which to delegate?  Easy.  If you can find no real value to your personal involvement, nothing you can add to make the task more valuable, get rid of it.
  3. Just say no-  If you’re like me, you probably have at least ten requests in your inbox right now that you can just politely say no to.  DO IT.  You’d be surprised that people rarely push back when you politely bow out of a request.  It’s fair to tell them you do not have the bandwidth to handle the item.  Guilt free.

Once you get in the habit of removing 3 from your weekly task list, you’ll find that you’re more apt to remove several each day.  Good time management is something you practice and rarely master.  With consistent evaluation, negotiation, delegation and candor, you’ll find that those sleepless nights over endless tasks will be over.

Now….. get started!  No one wants to keep hearing how busy you are or how overwhelmed you are.  Take control. Eliminate the excess. You’ll be glad you did!

Swamped? Take The Time Management Quiz

Writing time seems hard to come by lately.  Combine the extra time at work, traveling to speaking engagements and busy schedule at home and there is barely time for eating and sleeping.  Do you ever have times like this?  Well, when I do, my mind begins racing to think about changes I can make to bring it all back into a reasonable pace.  I’m not alone.  clock

When I think about what contributes to the feeling of being overwhelmed, it is definitely the volume of work that comes through email.  As recently as fifteen to twenty years ago, a majority of work was coming through personal phone calls or actual conversations in person.  It has been over recent years that email requests add to the workload of knowledge workers.  That, combined with the other methods of requests, make cramming more responses into each day.

The solution goes back to setting time management goals for yourself.  I found a great tool to help me, and you, get to the analysis of what causes the most time management issues.  It also provides resources to help get you on track dealing with those problem areas.

Mind Tools- Time Management Quiz

I’ve also thought about what the work pace would look like if I only responded to email requests by making a return phone call.  That would certainly slow down the pace and give a more personal response.  Only problem with that is that there would be hundreds of email left unanswered for days.  Not a good solution.  I’ve also thought about limiting my schedule to no more than 3 meetings each day so that there remains time to actually work on projects.  I am still considering how realistic that would be.

So, what do you do?

What techniques do you use when your schedule is out of control?  Be sure to share in the comments.

Make Time For Fun: How To Avoid Work Burnout

question-mark-b8c0c7This isn’t about the top 8 ways you can inject fun into your workday.  It’s not a piece on how to be more friendly at work.  No, today is a day to remind you, and myself, that it is important to completely disconnect from work from time to time.

You know how it is, there are weeks and months at work where there is so much to do that you spend all your “free” time thinking about how to accomplish more with less.  If you’re like me, I say no to as many invitations as I say yes to, all because I think I can use a few more hours getting work done.

The problem is that if you keep that pace for very long, you get burned out.

Now that you’ve made it through almost all winter of really being dug-in and focused, remember that it’s positive and needed to take a break.

Schedule it.

Call your friends.

Don’t break this appointment with yourself.

As for me, I take my own advice.  It’s Friday and I will make sure to completely disconnect this weekend and spend time with my kids.  How about you?  What’s on your agenda this weekend?

Feeling Overwhelmed? Strategies to Overcome Work and Personal Obstacles

HR professionals wear many hats. When you work in HR, the moment you take off one hat, another one pops into place.  One minute you’re thinking like a recruiter, the next you’re handling an employee relations issue, the next you are strategizing with a leader on a plan or program.  One hat I like wearing is that of coach and counselor.  I use my skill and experience to guide managers and employees and often, it spills over to family and friends.

Regardless of whether I am at work or at home, there are people who need advice and guidance on how to best respond to certain situations.  Quite frequently, it involves the individual being completely overwhelmed with the demands that others put on them and that they put on themselves.  Even I have fallen prey to these feelings in the past.  There is one exercise I have found to be helpful in this situation.  I call it the One Small Thing.

Here’s how it works:

  • Make a list that includes each area of your life where you feel overwhelmed. For example, work, spouse, children, personal.
  • Now, each day do one small thing that can ultimately lead to change in that area of your life.
    • For example, if the problem is your job and you think you can repair the relationship, one small thing may be scheduling a call with your boss and communicating more. If you feel like you need to move on and repairing the situation is not an option, use each day to make one call to someone in your network who can help you find a new position.
    • If the issue is at home with your children, the one small thing might be asking them to spend time taking a walk or talking with you, going on a bike ride, finding something around the house to work on together.
    • If the issue is personal and you’re not building in any time for your personal interests, the one small thing may be to commit to scheduling at least fifteen minutes a day to do something selfish, just for your enjoyment.
  • Each day, keep track of what you’re doing in each category.

If you follow the ‘one small thing’ exercise, I guarantee that after a couple weeks, you’ll find that you’re much father ahead in creating situations where you can be successful and fulfilled.  By approaching a problem in incremental steps, you will find that you are no longer overwhelmed.  You will be taking control over the things you CAN control and that is the right approach.

Know of other ways people in this situation can overcome the obstacles?  Share with me in the comments…

Using Google Media Tools To Manage Time and Information

As this blog reaches more new readers, the questions I receive seem to multiply.  It may be that it’s the start of a new year or it may be that people are feeling pressure to handle more tasks, but people are asking for ideas to help them manage both time and information.  Whether you are someone who works outside the home or at home, time management is a challenge that every person experiences.  Some people learn tricks to manage their time better than others and I believe we can always consider alternative methods as we manage our day.

As a fan of social media in general, I tend to use media tools to help me track my day and manage through some of the normally time consuming tasks.  Google does a great job of offering tools that people can use to organize large quantities of information and they make it easy to share that information with others.  Here are some of the Google tools that I use and how each makes it easier for me to manage the amount of information I need and receive each day:


This is the way I personalize my experience with Google.  iGoogle allows me to have a personalized dashboard when I go to the Google site.  It has the option for you to add widgets like weather for any city, calendars, note pads, google reader, YouTube, google voice, games, and more.  I also access my gmail account from my iGoogle page.

Google Reader

This is one of the best tools to manage information from websites.  It allows you to subscribe, for free, to all your favorite news sources and blogs, thus creating your own personalized electronic newspaper.  You can view it from your pc, netbook, iPad, or phone.  It also allows you to sort information and share it with friends.  By using this tool, I rarely go to a website because I already have all the information I want and need filtering directly to my reader.

Google Sites

Are you a project manager?  Well, this is the tool for you.  Google sites gives you numerous customizable templates to create collaborative sites to track and manage projects.  I am currently using this for two projects at work and seeing some great results.  One  thing I like is that it makes it easy for social media beginners to feel comfortable from the start when using the tool’s features.  You can create sections on your Google Site that mirror a Twitter experience, a blogging experience, and you can link actual social media sites to the Google Site.  This is also a less-risky way to teach colleagues about social media and how it works without having them posting directly to the sites before learning.

Google Docs

This tool is one of my favorites.  It allows you to create private documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  It also enables you to share these documents with multiple people.  Instead of using email to attach a Word doc or Excel Spreadsheet then share it back and forth in a long email chain, this tool lets the document reside in one spot and each person who is invited to view or edit comes to the document.  It tracks changes each person makes so it is easy to see how the document progresses.  It can handle the most simple type of document needed to the most complex.  Check out this video to see the advanced capabilities.

Expand your mind, manage your time, master information.  What tools do you use?