Almost a year ago (wow, times really fly !) I’ve shared with you an email management system I was starting to use. During this year, I’ve shared this system with as many people as possible as I think it is really excellent. I don’t see myself today not using it as it did help me being 10 times more efficient when dealing with the pile of email I receive everyday. Some close colleague were as excited as I was and made a few improvement. In this quick post, I wanted to show you how I was configured and hopefully it will encourage you to start using it !
“Management Time: Who’s got the Monkey” is probably one of the most popular management article published by the Harvard Business Review. It’s been written by William Oncken and Donald Wass in 1974. It’s been reprinted several time since then and the message is still very true. This is a must read for everyone who has trouble delegating and ends up doing their subordinates or peers work.
If you can relate to the following situation, you should definitely read the article:
Let us imagine that a manager is walking down the hall and that he notices one of his subordinates, Jones, coming his way. When the two meet, Jones greets the manager with, “Good morning. By the way, we’ve got a problem. You see …. “As Jones continues, the manager recognizes in this problem the two characteristics common to all the problems his subordinates gratuitously bring to his attention. Namely, the manager knows (a) enough to get involved, but (b)not enough to make the on-the-spot decision expected of him. Eventually, the manager says, “So glad you brought this up. I’m in a rush right now. Meanwhile, let me think about it, and I’ll let you know.” Then he and Jones part company.
You’ve just allowed the actual problem or “monkey” to leap from your employee back to yours.
I’ve just ran across this short article on the Personal MBA blog which summarizes really well how I approach both my professional life and personal life. Project yourself into a situation where you’d do something (useful) and which would bring you excitement. It doesn’t matter how far you are from that situation as long as you understand clearly your goal. Then you can drill down and lay down intermediate stages which will help you reach the ultimate goal. These intermediate levels should really get you closer to where you want to go and have clear objectives themselves. You could make the parallel with Agile software development where you deliver regular pieces of functionality during iteration which bring you closer to your final product. Life and software development have a lot in common !
As a QA director, I focus particularly on the quality of our products of course but it is also true on how I try to manage both my professional and personal life. I’m not particularly interested to do a lot at an average level but rather do maybe less but at an exceptional level. Optimally I’d like to do a lot at an exceptional level but if you want to reach an optimal work-life balance, you will need to compromise.
I ran across this article on lifehacker and got interested by this picture describing some best practices to manage your work day.
I’ve always liked the idea of controlling how often I check my email. Now that I’ve implemented PIFEM (read here), I find it much easier to leave email accumulate for a few hours during each days and manage the reading during time boxed period throughout the day. I’m currently down to 6, 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. I think I can go easily down to 3 ! I write what I need to write at anytime during the day as suggested by the board.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had trouble managing properly the huge amount of email I receive everyday. I’ve tried creating dedicated folders with email to be processed, tried the flag functionality of outlook, colors, priority settings etc. I’ve always managed to be reasonably organized but there was always a part of me which was afraid to miss important email to process. Then I’ve ran across an article from Ian Palangio‘s who runs a blog on productivity. He describes his own system to manage email called PIFEM which make excellent use of favorite folders in Outlook 2007 to manage in a very efficient way emails. With this system, I have a clear view of what email I need to process in my incoming stack, today, tomorrow, next week etc. I’ve been using this system for the past 2 months and I’ve became way more productive with my emails and it really brought me confidence and clarity.
You can find clear direction about PIFEM here.