Thursday, May 24, 2007

Getting control of your e-mail

I'm in the fortunate position of not being inundated with e-mail anymore, thanks to not being part of a large organization. But in the past, I've been faced with dealing with hundreds of e-mails daily and struggling to figure out how to stay on top of it all.

Even now, with my daily email load significantly less, I'm still tempted to check my email more often than I should. As a result, I often let relatively insignificant matters derail my best intentions for getting things done.

So I'm always attracted (or is it distracted?) to articles with advice on how to gain back control of your in-box and other time-saving advice.

Here's the latest. It's an essay from the folks at ChangeThis, an interesting site that sends out regular collections of articles (or manifestos, as they refer to them) about living in today's digital world. They say their mission is to spread important ideas. It's a bit eclectic, but usually interesting.

Given my attraction for time-management articles, how could I resist something with this title when it showed up in my in-box?

The Low-Information Diet: How to Eliminate E-mail Overload and Triple Productivity in 24 Hours

(Click here to download the .pdf directly.)

It's written by Tim Ferriss, author of a book called "The Four-Hour Workweek." (And if you've never heard of Tim Ferriss, check out this Google Search on his name. He's a high-profile geek, to say the least.)

Ferriss's advice is not new or startling, but it's written in a straight-forward manner and backed up by some solid research. Here's a sample:
Though selective ignorance has several facets, we’ll focus on the low-information e-mail diet (here forward called the “low-information diet”), as e-mail is the single greatest time waster in modern life. Before we get into specific guidelines, the two fundamental principles of selective ignorance are
worth mentioning:
1. If you don’t define your goals clearly, everything seems important and requires action. If you define your goals clearly, especially your single most critical goal, almost all things are of little or no importance and few things require action.

2. Trying to make everyone happy—besides being impossible—is the surest way to make yourself miserable.
There are then three specific steps for following the low-information diet that we’ll explore in descending order of importance: decreasing frequency, decreasing volume, and increasing speed.

I'm intrigued by the low-information diet. I don't expect to implement it immediately, given that my volume of email is not that bad right now.

But if you or your clients are struggling with managing the daily flood of digital information, you should read the article. Your co-workers will probably thank you.

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