10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral

From Chris Anderson – curator of TED.com

1. Respect Recipients’ Time
This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.
2. Short or Slow is not Rude
Let’s mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we’re all facing, it’s OK if replies take a while coming and if they don’t give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don’t take it personally. We just want our lives back!
3. Celebrate Clarity
Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens] [Low Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colors.
4. Quash Open-Ended Questions
It is asking a lot to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by “Thoughts?”. Even well-intended-but-open questions like “How can I help?” may not be that helpful. Email generosity requires simplifying, easy-to-answer questions. “Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying right out of it?!”
5. Slash Surplus cc’s
cc’s are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don’t default to ‘Reply All’. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.
6. Tighten the Thread
Some emails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it’s usually right to include the thread being responded to. But it’s rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut what’s not relevant. Or consider making a phone call instead.
7. Attack Attachments
Don’t use graphics files as logos or signatures that appear as attachments. Time is wasted trying to see if there’s something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could have been included in the body of the email.
8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR
If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (= End of Message). This saves the recipient having to actually open the message. Ending a note with “No need to respond” or NNTR, is a wonderful act of generosity. Many acronyms confuse as much as help, but these two are golden and deserve wide adoption.
9. Cut Contentless Responses
You don’t need to reply to every email, especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying “Thanks for your note. I’m in.” does not need you to reply “Great.” That just cost someone another 30 seconds.
10. Disconnect!
If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we’d all get less email! Consider calendaring half-days at work where you can’t go online. Or a commitment to email-free weekends. Or an ‘auto-response’ that references this charter. And don’t forget to smell the roses.

Occupant Activity :: Not Even Considered

I’ve read a few articles lately about the amount and types of data that will be generated by Autonomous Vehicles (AVs). Every single article talks about the data that will be generated by the vehicle itself. I’ve yet to see anyone discussing the real value generated by these AVs. To wit; what are the people in the vehicle doing while they’re being transported from point A to point B?  Here’s yet another recent example…

Automakers have a choice: Become data companies or become irrelevant

While I don’t disagree with the headline, I do believe that of the various revenue generating data streams, the one that will require constant evaluation and examination is the Occupant Activity (OA) stream.

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The Secret Weapon

I’ve been owing you guys a review of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey for a while, now. Unfortunately for you, or fortunately – for me, the serendipitous order of my last few posts has lead me down a rabbit hole of learning to be effective, efficient and free of stress. All of this coincided with the start of biking weather and the windy season which pulled me outside more often than not. Now, you’re about to benefit from my readings and my learnings along the way. There were several dozen good take-aways from 7-Habits. I highly recommend that you read it. I’m not going to review it because there are literally thousands of good reviews out there. I’ve tried to find a way for others to read my highlights from the Kindle edition of the book without success. Some of the most valuable things that I took from 7-Habits were related to “putting first things first” and working in Quadrant II – Important but NOT Urgent things.

Anyway, after reading 7-Habits, and while I was trying to put the lessons learned into practice, I posted about the things that I would do to improve Outlook. One of those things was to allow hash tags that were searchable/categorizable. That lead me to an unsuccessful search for an outlook plug-in that would allow you to add tags to an email or accomplish any of the other things that I thought would be awesome for Microsoft Outlook. That search led me to The Secret Weapon. I’ll link that below… I don’t want you distracted just yet. The Secret Weapon allows you to set up and use the system called Getting Things Done in a 21st century way. Getting Things Done is a book by David Allen. I’d heard of it and even played around with the system when I first started using XMind. However, I’d not read the book. So, having stumbled across this system twice in 3 months and seeing how well it worked in XMind without having read the book, I decided it was about time to get the book and read it.

Getting Things Done is an easy read. It’s a considerably longer than it needs to be and it is clear that it was written before smart phones and PCs were ubiquitous, but the tips and tools he offers are really effective. I got everything that I need from the first 150 pages of the 250+ page book. The rest if really unnecessary when you apply the GTD system with The Secret Weapon.

I seriously suggest that you read the first 150 pages of Getting Things Done by David Allen. Check it out from the library. Don’t bother buying it. Hell, borrow it from me if you live nearby.
Download and read The Secret Weapon.
Download Evernote. Download Evernote for home and for work and for wherever else you have a computer.
Download Evernote for your smart phone. They have versions for all of the popular platforms.

Now, I have my entire life’s outstanding action items in one place – not floating around in the back of my mind. No need to try to remember those little nagging chores that you keep meaning to do. No more forgotten items at the store. Project management is a breeze with this system. I’ve even devised a notebook and note title system that I can use as a calendar so that my day’s required items and meetings don’t get lost in the shuffle. I now have nearly 100 different tags that are easily managed and organized by nesting and following a naming convention that works well.

My only wish now is that Evernote was an email client. If I didn’t have to move things back/forth between email and Evernote, my system would be seamless.

If you do decide to implement this system and you’d like to set up a calendar notebook, here’s what I did.
Create a notebook called Calendar
When you have items that are date specific that you need to remember or be reminded of something on a particular date, then begin the name of the note with the date in the format [YYYYMMDD HH:mm]. So, for example, if you need to be reminded that on June 5th at noon you have a Dr. appt, you might name the new note “20120605 12:00 Go to Dr Bob’s” Then, you can sort the notebook by title rather than by date created. Check that folder daily for things that you need to know today or in the coming days.

Let me know if you set this up for yourself and share tags that you think are keys to your own success with the system.