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Handling Urgency at Work Without Email

Handling Urgency at Work Without Email
    Catch the moment by sunnyUK on flickr

    Just the other day, a co-worker was called out by another co-worker that they “weren’t answering their email quickly enough.” This comment was made even when our company employs a host of ways to contact each other immediately.

    The issue that was being discussed was urgent and had to be handled that day, but the accusing party in no way handled the work as being urgent. For some reason they expected an immediate response via email, even though email is not an “immediate response” type of tool. And frankly, it should never be considered to be one especially with the types of technology we have at our disposal.

    Email as mail

    The way that I and many others treat email is as a piece of mail. We don’t sit in front of our mailbox all day, waiting for something to be put into it, only to take it out, create a reply, put it in an envelope, stamp, and send it off. That would be ridiculous, right? So, why should we be expected to deal with email this way?

    The problem is that most people treat email this way.

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    It wasn’t until I was introduced to the GTD ecosystem that I found thoughts on email like that of Merlin Mann or even Leo Babauta. These guys saw email as mail, something that piles up throughout our day and then we process it. We then make decisions on what we are supposed to do next with this incoming mail; respond to it, make it a piece of reference material, trash it, etc. Once I was able to understand this way of thinking, email wasn’t an immediate response type of tool anymore. This kept me out of my inbox and allowed me to get more done as well as handle urgent issues the right way.

    What about immediate issues?

    I hear this a lot where I work:

    “It’s my job to respond to email.”

    What a sad state of affairs; a professional email responder. Actually, I would say that most anyone that says that truly means that their job is to handle immediate issues in their business; it just so happens that many people still treat email as an immediate response type of communication.

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    I know that we productivity nerds can’t move the immovable force of overuse of email, but we can bring some options to the table that those afflicted with immediate email action can try to employ.

    The ways to handle urgency without email

    Here are a few ways that you can help yourself and possibly others in your company deal with urgent matters without the use of a sea of email. These may seem dead obvious, but you will be extremely surprised at how little they are used for urgent issues:

    1. Use IM

    No matter what anyone says, IM isn’t just a way to chat with your friends at work (although that can be an added benefit). IM stands for instant messaging and that is exactly what it should be used for; getting a hold of someone instantly.

    If you company doesn’t use IM, especially in a company where issues with customers are of utmost important, you may want to try to talk your higher-ups and put it in place. IM at work has saved a ton of time and many email messages being overlooked.

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    2. Use the phone

    A telephone? What the hell is that? It’s that thing that is dusty, sits on the corner of your desk, and is used maybe once a day. The fact is that the phone is the best tool for getting things done quickly across far reaches.

    Yes, maybe you can type 160 words per minute, but you can’t explain problems over IM or email like you can verbally. If something is super important and needs done ASAP, the phone and the next medium are the best tools to use.

    3. Come see me

    If you are across the office and you need something done now then go and see the person that needs to get that something done. You may want to call or IM them first to make sure that they are available, but if the issue is urgent enough, then it’s totally fine to just go and see them. Once again, speaking to someone verbally is the best way to handle urgent situations.

    What’s next?

    One of the hardest things you have to do to get out of the “living in your email inbox mentality”, especially for large corporations, is try to change your coworkers’ view on how to handle urgent issues. The best way to start is to tell them that you only check email a certain number of times a day (just like Mr. Vardy with his 3 times a day rule) and if they need something immediate, then either they can IM you, call, or stop over.

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    You may run into an issue that really isn’t urgent and your coworker thinks it is, but usually if you lay out some groundwork that email isn’t the best way to get something done quickly, they will respect your avenue for getting urgent things done.

    If you work with a bunch of humans, how do you guys handle urgent matters?

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on December 10, 2019

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

    Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

    But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

    Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

    But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

    Journal writing.

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    Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

    Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

    Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

    1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

    By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

    Consider this:

    Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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    But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

    The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

    2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

    If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

    How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

    Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

    You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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    3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

    As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

    Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

    All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

    4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

    Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

    Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

    The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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    5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

    The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

    It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

    Kickstart Journaling

    How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

    Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

    Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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