Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Taking Charge of Incremental Interruptions

Do you consider yourself a multi-tasker? Apparently, there's research to the contrary that insists you're really interrupting yourself incrementally.

And you know the worst instigator of multi-tasking activities these days? Say it with me: Email.

Some experts advise checking only twice a day. But how is that realistic?

In the corporate world, if I'd told my boss I only check email twice a day (or just went ahead and did it) I'm pretty sure I'd have been out of a job!

You could argue that a boss should be more in touch with his employees, speak to them directly, plan ahead better. And then I'd ask you: Where do you work?

In a fast-paced office where people rely on digital communications to foster speed and agility and responsiveness, it can't be realistic to limit email checking to twice daily.

I can far more easily buy into the notion of doing the digital equivalent to adman David Ogilvy's habit of handling each piece of paper that crossed his desk only once (back in the day, well before email). Handle each email only once, whether it means you answer, delete or file.

Or, when faced with an overloaded inbox of urgent queries, to first get to those requiring two minutes or less to answer, as an expert recently suggested in a New York Times article.

For my part, I've tried limiting the number of people in the To: field. Unless it's absolutely critical, why include everybody and their chain of command when there's really only one person who needs the information?

So what about you? How do you process all your email without letting your workday veer off track? Feel free to post your Tips in the Comments below.

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