Wednesday 30 March 2011

Strategies for Taming your Inbox!

When used appropriately, email is an incredibly useful communication tool. But many of us feel overwhelmed by the amount of mail that we receive and feel the need to respond to promptly.

However, there are ways to manage your email so that you're more productive. In this article, we'll explore strategies for doing this, so that you can get on with the real work at hand.

Keep in mind that these strategies may not work for everyone. So use your own best judgment when thinking about how to manage your email

Checking Email
Checking your email regularly during the day can be an effective way to keep your inbox at manageable levels. However, the constant interruption and distraction that comes from multitasking in this way can dramatically lower your productivity, and disrupt your ability to enter a state of flow when working on high value projects.

Check Email at Set Times
One strategy you can use is to check email only at set points during the day. For instance, you may decide that you'll only check your email first thing in the morning, before lunch, and at the end of the day.

Here, it helps to set your email software to download messages only at certain times, so that you're not distracted by incoming messages. If you can't do this, at least make sure that audible and visual alerts are turned off.

When to Check Email
You can also reserve time to read and respond to email after a long period of focused work, or at the time of day when your energy and creativity are at their lowest (this means that you can do higher value work at other times). If you're concerned that your colleagues, boss, or clients will be annoyed or confused that you're not responding to their email quickly, explain that you only check email at certain times, and that they can call you or use instant messaging if the matter is really urgent.

Clearly, in some roles, you will have to check email on a regular basis, especially if your business uses email as its main communication tool. As with all of these strategies, use your judgment, based on your circumstances.

Reading Email
When it comes to reading email, you can waste hours if you don't use this time well.

The Two-Minute Rule
First, try using the "Two-Minute Rule" (a concept from David Allen, the author of "Getting Things Done") - if the email will take less than two minutes to process (a quick read, and a short answer) then take care of it right now, even if it's not a high priority.

The idea behind this is that if it takes less than two minutes to action, then reading and then storing the task away "to do later" takes longer than it would to just take care of the task now.

Schedule Time
For emails that will take longer than two minutes to read or respond to, schedule time on your calendar, or add this as an action on your To-Do List.

Most email programs will allow you to highlight, flag, or star messages that need a response, so utilize this handy feature whenever you can.

Many of us get lots of internal notifications. These are those "FYI" emails from the corporate office or team members who want to keep us "in the loop." If you see your name in the cc field instead of the To field, chances are it's an FYI email. Consider filing it in a To Read folder, and tackle it when you have time.

Organizing Email
Can you imagine having an inbox with nothing in it? It almost sounds too good to be true! Although a completely empty inbox (also called "inbox zero") might be unrealistic for many of us, keeping our main inbox cleared can make us more organized, and help eliminate stress.

Filing Email
Start by setting up a simple filing system to help manage your mail.

You could use broad categories titled "Action Items," "Waiting," "Reference," and "Archives." If you're able to stay on top of your folders - particularly "Action" and "Waiting" folders - you could use them as an informal To-Do List for the day.

If four categories sounds too simplistic for your needs, you can set up a more detailed system. For instance, you could create a folder for every project that you're working on, or have a set folder for each of your clients or sales reps.

The advantage to creating specific folders for processing email is that it makes searching for past mail easier. Instead of scouring your entire email system, you can simply search in that particular folder.

An alternative approach is to use a good PC-based search tool like Google Desktop Search - this makes it really easy to search for emails and other documents.

The best approach to use can depend on how quickly you need to access a specific email. If you need instant access (for example, if clients often call you to discuss emails) you may want to file into folders. If you don't, then desktop search may be all that you need.

Using Rules
Most email programs, such as Outlook and Gmail, allow you to establish "Rules" to automate sorting email into particular folders.

For instance, you might get several emails per day notifying you of sales that your company has made. You want to receive these, because you want to see what's happening, but you don't want them to clutter your Inbox.

This is where you could set up a Rule in your email program that moves emails with "Sale Notification:" in the subject line straight to the "Sales Made" folder as soon as they come in. This frees up your time from filing these emails, and allows you to keep all sales emails in one folder.

Non-Essential Email
If you regularly receive email such as newsletters, blogs and article feeds, consider having them re-routed to another email address, or use rules, so that they're instantly delivered to a particular folder.

This will help keep your primary inbox clear, and they'll be in one place, ready for you to read at a convenient time.

You can make a world of difference for your colleagues, boss and clients by writing effective emails. This will not only save them stress and frustration, but succinct, relevant emails can also save an enormous amount of time - yours and theirs.

Good Team Habits
One of the best things that you can do, to limit the amount of email you need to process, is encourage your team to send you less.

For instance, if certain team members regularly send you long-winded emails, let them know. Tell them gently but firmly that because of the demand on your time, you'd appreciate emails no longer than a paragraph or two. Anything longer than that should warrant a phone call. Alternatively, they could drop by your office for a discussion.

Also, promote good email and communication strategies in your organization - encourage people to use the strategies highlighted in this article. .

Key Points:
Most of us feel overwhelmed by email. Although it's a great communication tool, more often than not it's overused. By managing it effectively, you can significantly boost your productivity.

To gain control of your inbox, start by checking and processing email only at certain times during the day. If you're concerned about the delayed response, let people know that you don't check your email constantly.

Also, try to keep your inbox as clear as possible. Organize mail using folders like "Action", "Waiting" and "Archives". And when you do check mail, use the two minute rule - any email that can be read and responded to in two minutes or less should be handled right then.

You can also reduce your incoming mail by asking people to send you less, and by advocating effective email and communication strategies in your organization.

This article is reproduced from Newsletter 184, issued by

Thursday 6 January 2011

Want to lose weight?

The following article, by James Sweetman, identifies 8 steps to an effective weight loss strategy.

1. Beliefs – getting your thinking right
Beliefs are statements that we hold to be true and we act in accordance with them. Most of the time our beliefs are unconscious, that is, we are not aware of them and the power they hold over us. In the context of weight loss, a typical belief is ‘losing weight is very tough.’ If we belief this to be true, we will seek evidence to verify this belief.
The experts I spoke with did not have any limiting beliefs in terms of fitness and health. Examples of their positive, empowering beliefs included:

“Life will be immeasurable improved when attention is paid to a healthy diet.”
“How I feel is a top priority.”
“I don’t have to be perfect all the time.”
Write out the beliefs you are holding in this area. A good way to uncover them is to simply think about what you would like to achieve and write out all the thoughts that come into your mind. What thoughts are limiting and could hold you back? What could you replace them with?

2. Focus on the end result
The people who succeed at losing weight and maintaining the loss are motivated by a dream much bigger and more positive than just losing weight. They see themselves living a healthy lifestyle. They begin to act and think like people who are in good physical shape. They change their thinking and the change in their actions follow automatically. It wouldn't be possible to effect and sustain such a radical change unless the person is motivated by a big dream that is positive in nature.

3. Planning
The bigger focus or dream is converted into results and achievements by having a future focus and planning ahead. Speaking with the experts, planning fell into two categories.

Firstly, having a goal focus. That could be completing the mini marathon in June or reaching a certain weight or dress size by Easter. The goal has to be specific and has to have a target date for completion, otherwise it is wishful thinking.
Secondly, all the experts recommended planning meals ahead. They suggested eating five small meals a day. To get started and to build good habits, they advised planning the week’s meals, all thirty five of them, at the beginning of the week. This will reduce the likelihood of finding yourself hungry with nothing in the fridge and making some less than good eating decisions.

4. Visualise your Achievements
Imagine in your mind how you will look and feel, and the life you will be living when you achieve your goal. How will you know you have achieved your goal unless you have determined what success means to you. So, take 10 minutes when you know you are not going to be disturbed and daydream about what you will look like when you have achieved your goal. Be specific. Writing out this description will make your goal seem much more real. Review what you have written every day and connect with your image of the new you. Connect with how achieving this result will make you feel. What will you be doing differently? What will you be saying and thinking when you have achieved your goal?

5. Measure your Results
To manage anything you have to be able to measure it. This is true in business, it is also true with diets. A simple technique is to get yourself a notebook. Each day write into your notebook what positive actions you are taking to make progress. It might be going for a walk or eating a salad for lunch. Also note what you are doing less of to reduce weight. For example, note that you didn’t have desert after dinner or resisted the cappuccino after lunch. If you want to note what the scales is telling you on a weekly basis or simply writing down how you are feeling, than that is also useful.

6. Who else benefits?
One of the findings from speaking with the nutrition experts that surprised me was learning that their primary focus was not on themselves. They wanted to be the best they could be in the areas of health and nutrition to be an example to others, to inspire other people to make healthier choices. It wasn’t just about them. If you think about it, don’t we always do more for other people than we do for ourselves? If you can embark on living a healthier lifestyle in tandem with a friend or partner, then you can give each other support and encouragement as you go along.

7. Resisting Temptation – what to do when the going gets tough
It was Oscar Wilde who said ‘I can resist everything except temptation.’ One of the areas that I wanted to get specific knowledge on when I spoke with the nutrition experts was how did they cope with resisting temptation. That moment when your hand is on the packet of crisps, or you make the decision to order a chocolate desert. What was interesting is that they all approached this in the same way and it wasn’t what I might have thought beforehand.
When tempted to eat unhealthily, they remembered a time in the past when they over-indulged. Perhaps after Christmas lunch or when they had a few too many drinks. They associated with this past memory, that is, they experienced it again on the inside, how they felt, what they saw, what they said to themselves. Some would then think about what it is they wanted to achieve, so they would have a contrast between the two extremes.
So if you overindulged over Christmas you can use that sense of bloatedness as a motivating factor for overcoming temptation.
All the experts said that aiming for 100% perfection in this area is a recipe (again pardon the pun) for disaster. It is what you do 80% of the time that matters. Going from four lattes a day to none is extreme. Going from four to two to one over a few weeks is steady progress.

8. Persistence
How long do you stick with something difficult before you give up? For many people in today’s immediate gratification society, if something doesn’t happen easily, they will not persevere. In a study carried out over a 10 year period in the US by The National Metabolic and Longevity Research Center they found that persistence is the single most important aspect of any diet or fitness program. The study followed a group of people (Group A) who exercised and dieted very strictly, but sporadically and compared those results with a second group (Group B) who exercised mildly and followed a very basic diet, but this group never varied from their routine. Even though Group B exercised and dieted far less (but did so persistently) they got 68% better results than those who exercised and dieted strictly but infrequently.

As the saying goes ‘if nothing changes then everything stays the same.’ This is true for our thoughts as well as our actions. Wouldn’t now be a good time to start making those changes? The above eight strategies work, I use them myself. But remember, knowledge is only potential power you have to take action to reap the rewards of your knowledge.

James Sweetman is the author of Graduate to Success and is a leading authority on Peak Performance. If you are ready to step into your potential, visit