To Do More, Do Less

It’s the age old adage; the less, the more. But how do you do less to do more?

One habit that I have adopted recently, both at work and at home, has helped me to do just that – I’m doing more by doing less.

What am I talking about? Email! If you let it email will simply gobble up tonnes and tonnes of your time as it used to do for me.

Ask yourself this question, “Do you use email to hold a conversation”? In other words do you respond to an email as soon as it arrives and when you get a reply to that you reply again, just like a verbal conversation? If you do then you’re probably wasting lots of time in your use of email.

If you’re doing the email conversation thing back and forth then your productivity will go way down. Have you ever timed how long it takes to type something rather than say it to some one? No? Let’s try a little experiment. Here’s a typical sentence I might include in an email conversation at work:

“The platform you are trying to install on is not supported at that release. You will have to manually hack the configuration file and re run the install”

That took me 47 seconds to type and correct a misspelled word. Now let me say it…

8.7 seconds later I’ve given over exactly the same piece of information. That’s just over five times faster than writing the same thing in an email!

So here’s my tips for improving your email productivity.

  • Switch off the email notification. This only serves to distract you from what you’re doing productively and makes you the slave of your email client when it should be the other way around.
  • Process email in a batch three times a day; first thing in the morning, just after lunch and again about an hour before you finish up. Often I find people come up with the solution themselves before I have time to reply to their email, which is empowering for them and saves me the time looking it up and responding.
  • Don’t process email just as you’re finishing – if there’s any unpleasant surprises in your email you’ll worry about them all night when you can’t do anything about it until the following morning.
  • Work down the emails from the most recent towards the oldest. If there’s been much activity in an email thread then the most recent email will have all the information you need and you can delete the rest.
  • Don’t use email as a conversation tool, it’s a very inefficient way of speaking. Use your email to request information and to send information; but use the telephone to hold a conversation.

So do less emailing, do more real stuff.

PS. Instant Messaging is even worse. Avoid it like the plague!