Inbox Zero Challenge

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Right now, keeping up on all of the projects I’m balancing is not much of a problem. Still I cannot resist exploring different ideas on productivity.

There are evidently two schools of thought about the inbox: keep it clean or what I call laisssez-faire inbox. Right now I have over 8,100 emails in my inbox. Nearly 15% of them are unread. “This isn’t making a good case for your consulting biz, Shannon.” To that I say I will not allow myself to be shamed! My appointments go on the calendar, commitments go on the to-do list. However, I am proud but reasonable. A friend is insisting that Inbox Zero is the way to go and I am always interested in productivity.

Changing my routene is a risky move. Moving all of my important emails to folders could create a cascade of barriers in my work, confuse me and make effieiciency a thing of the past. (Yes I take organizational routines this seriously.) I am going to give Inbox Zero a try. I have made a few folders for the different realms in which I use information (work, purchases, important corespondance.) Luckily a background in info science makes the odds I’ve made useful categories a pretty safe bet. So checking the folders will be an extra step in addition to the productivity tools I already use, but allgegedlly this will make me a turbo info processor. Inbox Zero must entail some other steps and philosophies I suppose I’ll come into as I research this further.

The point I intended to make originally was that your new resolution doesn’t have to be sexy. It doesn’t even have to be in Jaunary. Just try to find a new way to make your life better.

The Paper vs. Email War

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What could be more fun on a Monday morning than thinking about conflict on your marketing team? This one is closer to home than you might think. Teaching a group to blog together can stir up unexpected problems.

Lets picture this writer and editor:

little girl yelling at cow

Rob emails Mary a newsletter article draft for review. Mary prints it out, writes in a few corrections and notes- some word choice suggestions and some mechanical errors. Rob makes the changes and emails the final draft for Mary’s approval. Mary only has one more suggestion, a title change. She returns the draft with the new title written in and affixes a note with approval to run the article. Next thing you know, the two are barely speaking. You had your blog schedule and topics all planned out, and here’s this whole new animal. What happened?

Mary: “Rob is a good writer but he makes me print out his drafts myself and doesn’t even say thank you. It’s disrespectful of my position and just annoys me.”

Rob: “Mary is a great editor but she needs to get with the times. She prints out every single suggestion and glares at me as she piles each one on my desk. Forget learning document markup, she can’t just tell me about a title change in the response email? It’s insulting my intelligence and really wasteful.”

Here, Rob feels like he’s being “graded” because he is accustomed to receiving draft suggestions electronically. Mary considers paper proofs necessary to edit writing and finds Rob’s emails annoying and discourteous.

There is a lot more going on here than paper vs. email.

The lesson here is that the human element is an enormous component of information sharing. At it’s heart, this is a collaboration process. Disparaging organizational methods, if unfettered, will at the least impede colloboration. At worst the different realms and styles will create a rift in the staff- a war pitting “paper-loving Luddites” against “monitor-zombies.” The fix for this situation is twofold: create workflow policies and facilitate empathy among staff. These two will be an unstoppable team if they are separately brought to some mutual understandings.

An outside consultant is the perfect solution to streamlining your process. A priceless bonus is having a neutral third party on hand during a time of change.

Staying Organized in the Digital Workspace

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old fashioned mail room

So much mail!

The world recently sighed a collective sigh of relief when it was procliamed that there is no such thing as multitasking. It’s no coincidence that when email became readily accessible the myth of the hyperproductive multitasker came about. The person who emails you back instantly is the vision of superior competence. Behind that curtain is a person who is neglecting large products to fire back a response to said emails. The brain can only do one thing at a time. Switching among tasks all day can seem really impressive -but sparks are just wasted energy.

How do you keep track of what to focus on if you aren’t just performing the first task under your nose? As much as I love Toodledo, I have found I don’t stick with it. I use a few simple tools to stay organized- mostly features of my Gmail account: Tasks, Calendar and Documents.

I have a few different lists of tasks- ongoing projects and regular duties. It is like having to-do lists with salient emails attached. If I need to find some info, I search the inbox. Admittedly, this system does not force old emails out.

Whether I’m budgeting a project, composing a blog or planning a party menu, the info lives in my Google Documents account. I can access my work and jot down ideas pretty much anywhere. This is as close to having a personal assistant you can get for free and by that I mean that I am pretty productive. Still, a new year presents new opportunities and I could always stand to be more efficient.

How do YOU stay organized?