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Treat Your Email Like Snail Mail and Walk Away with change

Treat Your Email Like Snail Mail and Walk Away with change
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Email is a constant struggle for most of us these days. It comes in thick and fast and threatens to overwhelm us if we take even a few days away from our inbox. Is it just me, or does anyone else think that email is becoming the New Boss?

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Most of us can remember life before email, back when we only had the phone or paper mail. When email came into popularity, we had a choice of how we used it. We could either treat it like the telephone and answer it immediately. Or treat it like paper mail and answer it when we were ready, in batches. Many of us have gradually, bit by bit, fallen into the immediate answer paradigm at the expense of our productivity, sanity and lifestyle. Think about how you process snail mail compared to your email habits and you will see what I mean. This is where we get into trouble.

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You have more control over the speed of the email in and out of your life than you know. Try this out today. Answer an email in a draft and then wait an extra hour before you press Send. Does the world grind to a halt? Try holding back for a couple of hours or a half a day. What happens?

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In most cases, it is quite reasonable to respond to a supposedly urgent email a day or even a week later. Slow down the stream and life goes on. Just like back in the old days of snail mail, if people expect a slow response, then they will work with it.

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The speed that you reply to an email directly determines your correspondent’s perception of what is normal. If you respond instantly, then that is what they will expect of you. If you respond a day later then they will live with that as well. You make a noose for your own neck when you constantly try to answer emails instantly. Sooner or later you will find that you are spending all day emailing and will never get anything else done. Now is the time to gradually claw back a routine and batch your emails together for top productivity.

Set your routine

Decide what time (or times) you will deal with email each day. At that time (assuming you deal with it once a day) you will have the last 24 hours worth of emails waiting for you. Set up an efficient system to deal with all of your emails in one sitting. Sort, process, act and delete, until there is nothing left. Then turn off your email. Now that you have done your emailing, get to work on whatever else is important to you. Achieve something valuable and don’t refer back to email until your next scheduled time. Repeat the process. Quite quickly, your contacts will come to understand how soon they can expect a response from you. If email isn’t fast enough, they’ll soon be on the phone, but for most things, people just wait.

This is not the solution for everyone, but it sure helps me. Batching my emails and only dealing with them once a day saves me a lot of time and has freed up my day for doing what is important. If anyone needs my attention straight away they can get it, but they will not get it by emailing me. Treating email like snail mail has revolutionised my communication without reducing my effectiveness. Why not give it a try?

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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