Tuesday, September 24, 2013

✔ Why I hate email and what I'm planning to do about it

This was a busy month for me. My company is going through a transition, I just hired a bunch of key people, put my team through V2MOM creation process, organized our team's yearly get-together in Barcelona and launched a cool Nozbe summer promo and refined Nozbe tutorial. We also set up ground work for Nozbe 2.0 to be launched later this Fall. Everything was a team effort but required a lot of focus from me. So I started skipping on email...

Why I hate email and what I'm planning to do about it

It all started a month ago...

...when I needed to focus on what's best for my company. Started creating V2MOMs, strategy, tactics, talking to my team, analyzing our marketing activities, revenue, everything... and testing our product... and wanted to make sure we'd do a great job for our customers this Fall. This all required long stretches of focus so at the end of the day I was so tired that I just started not opening the email app at all. Every day as I focused on my work I continued postponing checking email... and limited to communicating with my team only, through Nozbe tasks and chat (Facetime, Skype)...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

5 tricks to keeping your email inbox at zero

Many busy folks have problems with email these days. Some announce email bankruptcy. I've always managed to have my email inbox very close to zero. I've blogged about email before and even recorded a few video shows, too. But for the last few weeks I've finally managed to keep email inbox at zero consistently every single day. Here's how:

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1. Keep the emails short and stop being so polite

I use to treat emails with respect. With the whole structure like "Hello, Best Regards, etc." - now I don't think about this anymore. I found out that people appreciated more a short response earlier… than a long and pretty one a lot later… if ever.

Leo Babauta wrote about it in his post and he said his emails are now max 5 sentences long.

I still like the formal structure of the email so I use Typinator on my Mac and when I write "brm" it converts to "Best regards, - Michael" (and many similar abbreviations) - so my emails are both short and pretty :-)

2. Apply the 2-minute rule

If I can reply to an email shortly in just 2 minutes, I do it right away… and what I found out is that most of the emails can be replied like this. So combine this rule with the one before. Keep it short, quick and reply as soon as you can.

3. Just one folder - "Reply"

I just use one folder in my email program (the cool new Mail.app in Mac OSX Lion) and it's "Reply" and it stores the messages I need to devote more time to.

I try to keep this folder really small and zero it out at the end of the day. As only very few messages go there, it's not really hard to schedule half an hour at the end of the day to zero it out.

4. Forward emails to your task/project system

I forward my actionable emails to Nozbe and convert them to tasks with a comment containing email content (it's really easy to do and there is even an action script for it).

This way the email messages are zeroed out and I'll reply later when the time comes to take action. It's really inefficient to keep emails as "to-do reminders" in the inbox.

5. Schedule your email time, turn off notifications

I don't use Email notifications. I even removed the "unread" badge from my Mail.app client. I go to email when I choose to do email (and now with full-screen apps in Lion it's even cooler). I do email 2-3 times a day. That's it. I try to never start a day with my email. Only get to it when I've already done 2-3 hours of productive work.

That's it. These easy techniques helped me keep my inbox at zero and keep my mind sane.

What are your tricks in dealing with email? How do you manage the emails coming in?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How many emails are you NOT receiving?

After my two posts on email, handling email on business trips and clearing a pile of emails after the trip, let me comment on a common problem with email - Email has become an indicator of how busy or important one is. That's silly and counter-productive.
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Ever got this question: How many emails do you receive per day? The bigger the number, the more of a figure you are, right? Wrong.

I'm aiming at receiving as few emails per day as I can.

This gives me time to do more productive work then answering email. Here's how I do it:

1) I turn off email notifications

I created filters for all my notifications to go to "notifications" folder and skip inbox right away. All my Twitter, Facebook and other notifications go there. This amounts to a large portion of my email passing me unnoticed. Why?

Because when I want to use Twitter, I go on Twitter. When I want to connect with Friends on Facebook. I go there. I don't want to be forced to go there and don't need to be notified who did or wrote what. I'll go later and see.

I constantly tweak my filters to get rid of most of my notifications.

2) I don't subscribe to Newsletters - I read RSS feeds

I know, even though I do run Newsletters for both Nozbe and Productive Magazine, I don't subscribe to newsletters myself. If I'm interested in something, I add it to my RSS feeds in my Google Reader account. I read these later... again - when I decide to do it. When I have time for reading.

(I use the great Reeder app on my iPad, it's great for reading!)

3) I delegate emails to my assistant

My great assistant Delfina is handling all Nozbe support and lots of my other email-related activities. I know not everyone can have an assistant but it's great to have one (thanks for being there for me Delfina!) and even greater to learn how to gradually "use her" for outsourcing some of the emails that need to be handled. But this is a material for a different blog post.

It's a question of choice - I choose to have less email.

I just want to spend my day doing more productive work than email so I choose to receive less every day and, yes, I believe this smart approach is something to brag about. Less is more. More time for productive work, anyway.

How many emails are you NOT receiving today?


--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Clearing Pile of Email after business trip

Continuing my last post about handling email on business trips, let's continue our discussion - what to do when you've come back from a business trip, you've followed my tips in my last article and now you've got around a 100 emails that need your undivided attention. How to get them to ZERO?
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Here's how I suggest clearing your backlog of emails to zero. In three easy steps:

1. Move all of your email backlog to a temporary folder "backlog"

By doing this you make sure you have both your inbox empty and your "reply" folder empty and that you can keep dealing with email like you're used to. I do it the same way (link to my video)

2. Deal with the backlog in chunks of time of max 1 hour (or 2 Pomodoros :-)

Let's say you've got your to-do list for today and you're getting your stuff done and in the meantime get 1 hour of your time to focus on getting the backlog cleared up. After one hour get back to your tasks even if the backlog isn't clear just yet.

3. Keep on scheduling this hour throughout the week until the backlog is clear

Some days you'll have 2 hours in a day, sometimes more, sometimes less, but remember to keep a time gap between them. Don't work on your backlog for more than one hour. After 1 hour reward yourself with a cool and exciting task you need to get done for today and then get back to your backlog for another hour.

It's not easy, but you'll build good habits.

After my last business trip, it took me a whole week to get my email backlog to Zero but it was a great ride. It was hard not to stay in my email backlog for longer than 1 hour, but I forced myself to switch to something different, to make sure I'm not spending my full day in email only and I'm getting some meaningful stuff done.

Hope it helps you, too. How do you get your email to zero?
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Handling email on business trips

As I mentioned before, I was touring Poland, talking about productivity and localized versions of Nozbe... and this meant a very hectic day, always traveling (usually by train) and checking in and checking out of hotels. And lots of after-parties with local friends. This all meant less productive work and a huge email backlog. How did I handle email during my business trips? Here goes:
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1. Always process to ZERO

I always process my inbox to zero. Every day. If I can reply to something in less than 2 minutes, I do it right away and if I need more time for an email, I move it to my [REPLY] folder. If you want to learn more about my email system, watch this short 2-minute video.

2. Clean the REPLY folder selectively

The problem is that when you're on a business trip, you might not have time to reply to each and every email in your REPLY folder by the end of the day or by the beginning of the next day, so you should clean this folder selectively:

2a) reply to your co-workers as soon as possible

I just know I need to reply to my team member as soon as I can - I don't want to keep them waiting. So I just filter out their messages from my REPLY folder and try to respond to my co-workers the same day or the next day at the latest. They know I'm on a business trip but nonetheless I want to be responsive.

2b) keep the ball moving

If you see emails from other parties in the REPLY folder that are not your co-workers but you know they are waiting for your decision to be able to move their stuff forward, reply to these emails, too. You don't want to stall the ball, you want to keep the ball in motion. I work with many 3rd parties and I failed several times on moving the ball forward and it was a bad mistake. Don't make it, keep people moving. Reply.

3) Ignore the rest of REPLY folder... for now

Yes, keep your mind sane and ignore rest of the REPLY folder, you'll clean it up once you get back home to your normal office hours. These emails require your response but I'm sure the recipients will understand you were on a business trip and you couldn't get back to them faster. Most of my recipients did understand it and I'm happy they did. I could enjoy my business trip better.

How to deal with the piled-up email in the REPLY folder after you've come back home?

Well, process it to zero :-) OK, it's not that easy, we'll talk about it in the next blog post.
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Google Buzz not buzzing with me (and my email) all that much

OK, so Google launched Google Buzz yesterday. Their next attempt to do something about this whole social media stuff that they never managed to pull off. Facebook and Twitter are growing like crazy and the search giant (well, all the giants, including Yahoo and Microsoft) seem not to comprehend the social craziness.

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People seem to like buzz, but I have mixed feelings about it:

Integration with Gmail adds noise to my email

Google decided to use their Gmail user base to make sure the buzz is being used... so now everyone has buzz in their Gmail account. I get enough messages in my email inbox that it distracts me from my work, so I don't need more noise.

Furthermore, if someone comments on a buzz, I get it to my inbox... I don't want more stuff in my inbox. I grew up in the "Inbox zero" world and it's hard enough to keep it up anyway... Luckily there is a hack for that :-)

New profile, new followers....

So I had to set up a new Google Profile, and it seems I need to set up new followers and following! No thank you, I've been working hard enough on my Twitter following and I have more than 8K+ followers (thanks guys and gals!) and I don't feel like building it all again.

My current social media flow...

My main hub is my Twitter account. Statuses from there go to my Facebook profile and Linkedin profile... I occassionally use comments on Facebook and I use Llinkedin strictly for business related stuff. Why do I need Buzz? Can't find any real use for that.

Can you convince me to give Google Buzz a try? Like it? Hate it? What's your take?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dear dairy - after more than two weeks of blogging by email

I've always had problems keeping the schedule and posting on blogs on a regular basis... among all the reasons and excuses the one that really stood out was the fact that you'd have to log in to your blogging platform and click on "new post", etc. You get the picture... the logging part was hard enough from the psychologic point of view... Posterous to the rescue...
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Suddenly I can blog by just sending email!

This changes everything - to blog regularly I don't have to log in anywhere, I don't have to "maintain" my blog in a traditional sense... all I do is just send an email and it gets converted to a blog post.

Email is still my killer app

I'm using email every day and I've already developed several cool habits that help me deal with email. Now with my blog being integrated with the email, the barrier of entry is very low.

Offline blogging? Drafts anyone?

My mail application is also perfect for drafting posts. Whenever I have an idea for a blog post, all I do is just write an email with a subject line and a few notes in the email body and save it to Drafts. That's it. I can blog offline and online like this.

Handling comments is a breeze... just reply to emails!

My blog is fairly new, I'm getting quite a good traffic of readers from various places but not that many comments yet. However when you do comment on any of my blog posts, I receive your comment as an email that I can reply to... and when I do reply, the comment automagically shows up below your comment. Again, working perfectly with my email flow.

Email is 50 years old, and is still in a good shape

Yes, we have TwitterFacebookGoogle Wave and the like, but Email is still the number 1 communication tool for each and every one of us. It is for me. This is why any startup or web application that plays nicely with email is a winner for me. My next startup will have a lot to do with email, but psst, it's still in alpha stages :-)

So what does it take me to blog every day? All I do is just send one additional email message per day. That's all there is to it. This is my current cost of blogging every day - one more email message :-)

A few recommendations:

- check out posterous if you want to start blogging via email

Question: Is Email also your killer app? What are your tips and tricks for email processing? How do you like my email-generated blog?
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Is Google Wave an Email 2.0 service? What about Inbox Zero?

So I received my Google Wave invite and started playing around... if you don't know what Google Wave is, make sure to check out this great (but very long) intro video.

So here's how Google Wave looks like:

Screenshot

Well it looks pretty much like Gmail (or any other email client for that matter), doesn't it?

It does, but it can do more - it can be a live chat, a product collaboration, an email on steroids, a word processor, an app container (Nozbe for Wave?) thanks to the API and widgets....

All in all, it can be a lot, it can be a new wave of productivity movement....

... or not :-(

I'm just not sure I like this kind of all-in-one or all-you-can-eat product.

I still haven't tested Google Wave fully, I just received my invite and started waving with my friends but the problem is, that I believe when I start using it fully... I may want to stop quickly.

There is just too much noise. Too many things happening.

Why I still prefer Email?

With Email I have a steady workflow

As I explained in one of my videos, I check email, reply if it's less than 2 minutes (GTD 2-minute rule), move to "reply" folder when I want to deal with the thing later, and move other stuff to "all mail" or trash.

This process keeps me sane, makes sure I don't live in email and have time to do other things.

I'm just afraid that after initial "wow" the Wave will not improve my productivity, or even make it worse...

Questions: Have you tried Google Wave? What's your initial reaction? Will you be switching from email to Wave?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Simple Email setup with IMAP

I've recently switched my platform from Windows to Mac and when re-evaluating my email setup I found out I was using the "good old POP3" when there is IMAP which keeps my email synchronized between my Mac, iPhone and the Web. I also found out I only need 3 folders to get it to zero, just have a look for yourself:

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Watch and comment on YouTube

Question: How is your email setup? Are you also using IMAP? How many email folders do you have?

If you have enjoyed this episode of the Productive! Show, please subscribe:

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Processing Email to Zero

It's important to zero-out both your Inbox as well as your Email. How to process Email to zero? Watch me do this:

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Watch and comment on YouTube

Question: Do you manage to process email to zero? Do you have zillions of email folders? How do you manage the overwhelming amount of email messages you receive?

If you have enjoyed this episode of the Productive! Show, please subscribe:

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Get a life outside of Email

Email is King. But don't let the king rule you. Don't depend on your email. Don't be re-active but pro-active and decide how to deal with email - it's the first part of the series:

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Watch and comment on YouTube

Question: How do you get a life outside of email? Does Email rule you or do you rule email?

If you have enjoyed this episode of the Productive! Show, please subscribe:

Subscribe to VIDEO podcast | Get VIDEO from iTunes

Subscribe to AUDIO podcast | Get AUDIO from iTunes