Save tons of time with your e-mail

Today, I realized I was spending an unnecessary 3 seconds for each e-mail I drafted.

Here was the culprit phrase "Let me know if you have any questions."

In my blog, I have offered different approaches for managing e-mail to prevent it from consuming your work flow.  Add this one to your arsenal.

This week I had a littered inbox, so I asked myself a few questions about my approach to e-mail.
(1) Why am drafting e-mails as if they were going to be published in tomorrow's paper?
(2) Why do I have to cover every single question that has yet to be asked?
(3) Can I draft professional e-mails with fewer words and achieve the same effect?

To keep things simple for this post, I am going to give you a single challenge -- amend your e-mail sign-off.

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Recipe for work happiness

You don't have to look hard to find a motivational quote. 

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do" - Steve Jobs

How about a do this/get that work strategy.

"Sharpen the saw" by Steven Covey.  Preserve and enhance the greatest asset - you!

There are rows and rows of books in the stores on ways to find happiness in your work -- thousands if you go online.  

The issue I have with these quotes is they address work happiness at the macro-level.   If you love what you do, you will do great work.  Let's be serious, there are always parts of work that you don't want to do.

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No apologies

Apologies are overused, they impose guilt, and drain your time and energy.

Not only are apologies overused, they are often followed by an excuse.  Example: "I'm sorry I didn't get you called sooner, I was [fill in the blank]."  If you start an e-mail or phone call this way, you've just wasted valuable time thinking about the apology and stating it.  Additionally, you have lowered your confidence and self-esteem.  To make it worse - apologies are not effective for either person;  your groveling apology doesn't make you feel better and it has a small, if any, affect on the other person.

Apologies should be reserved for mistakes.  You missed a meeting.  You overlooked a deadline.  You returned a phone call a month after the voicemail.

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Improve your work performance

I'm starting my fifth work week after the holiday season.  December is always slow because my main areas of practice are family law and wills.  It makes sense that, in December, people would not (1) be interested in spending money on an attorney; and (2) start a custody action or think about what happens when they die.  But I digress.

After my 2-week holiday vacation, I was not prepared for the huge influx of e-mails and prospective client requests.  I was, however, excited (and relieved).  Then two weeks later I realized I had hopped on the treadmill of a reactive approach to work.

I let emergencies, not of my own doing, take priority of my plans for a productive day.  These reactive decisions would affect the rest of the week.  When I would finish helping with the emergency, I would remind myself not to do it again.  And then, I did it again.

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Start chunking (and get more done)

As I have stated in prior blogs,  e-mail should never be the first thing you do in the morning.  Even when you diligently follow this rule and recognize the benefits are worthwhile, you can still get stuck.  

Each day, all day long, we complete micro tasks that involve making a decision.  More tasks equals more stress.  When your day involves macro tasks, stress elevates.  The tasks on your to-do list are no longer on the same level.  For example, one day I had 1 task that would take 90 minutes, a handful that would take 30 minutes and several that would take 10 minutes or less.  The 90-minute task required full attention and was intellectually challenging.  A few of the 10-minute tasks were also intellectually challenging.  Sprinkled in were follow-up calls and basic document drafting.  

 

 

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Want a productive and satisfying work day?

Starting the business day with a plan is part of successful time management.

But how do you know if your plan for the day is focused on what your business needs right now?

Is the work you enjoy first on your list?  Is the work that will generate client satisfaction on the top of your list?  What about generating revenue? 

Setting out on your workday adventure is about prioritizing - but how you prioritize is also important.  And the flexibility to adjust your priorities is a skill that is often avoided.

At the end of my work day yesterday, I put my priorities in place for today.  This morning, they got reorganized.  

This is a result of taking my business vitals every morning.  If I do it everyday, it only takes 10 minutes.

Here are the vitals I take before I start my journey for a productive and satisfying work day.

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How multitasking cost me $1000

In some corner of the world, you can buy a $1000.00 glass of champagne.  On August 20, 2014, I drank from a $1000.00 glass of iced tea.

I didn't directly pay that much for my tea - I actually brewed it myself in my home kitchen.  I paid indirectly because that cool drink on a Wednesday morning cost me a hot sticker price when I decided to multitask.

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Hope Wood
Take the shortcut

I freelance for attorneys. My attorney clients are often seasoned attorneys, having 20 years or more experience in practice.

The technology available when attorneys began their practice two decades ago is light years away from where technology is today.

I enjoy helping attorneys learn how to use technology to save time and money.  I don’t always know what to do, but I learn along with them and take notes about what to do to get a certain result. 

I think the notes are more important than getting the result because the process will be needed in the future; usually when under a deadline or other external pressures.

Then there is the everyday use of a computer.

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Hope Wood
Running on empty

Out of gas. Wiped out. Beat. Stressed. Tired. These are words used to describe mental fatigue, often a result of working a lot and relaxing a little.

Easy to say out loud, usually to give others a heads up that something is sucking the life out of you.  Most people respond with empathy or attempted empathy, but that doesn't make me feel better.

What would make me feel better? Doing less of what is the cause of my mental fatigue.

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Hope Wood
When did we start giving e-mail so much power

I was in college when e-mail first started to become a method of communication available to any person who could get on the internet super highway.

Four years later, "in the year 2000",  I started work as a graduate assistant when I began my graduate school education.  As a manger of several groups of people, I used e-mail as my primary method of communication.  Looking back, I don't remember e-mail being used to voice gripes and grievances, probably because I would see them in person that week and it would be awkward for them.  

In 2004, ten years ago, I worked for a non-profit membership corporation.  I was the liaison to several committees which met in person once a year, otherwise, we did all the work by conference calls, e-mail or individual phone calls.  

I remember losing sleep about not responding to a customer or committee member's e-mail to me the same day I received it.  There was, however, no way for me to get through 100 e-mails a day and also get work done.  I tried to prioritize who I responded to, and in what order, by using a colored flag system - red meaning a reply is urgent.

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