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Handling The Volume?

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  • Handling The Volume?

    I've recently been promoted to a management position, and my area of responsibility has been increased dramatically. I've been working getting things done for over a couple of months now after being a long-time Franklin Day Planner user and usign Tony Robbin's RPM planning method for several years. I really believe that GTD is making a difference, but only from the standpoint that things would be a lot worse with out it...

    I typically get between 20 to 40 e-mail messages an hour. This volume is in addition to 1-3 voice mails per hour, A couple of walk-ins in an hour, and a schedule of about 80-90% of the 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. work day scheduled as face to face meetings. My department is at 50% staff for the work-load we're being given, and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to handle this.

    I typically come in early to plan and leave late after reviewing e-mail, but I feel like I have no time to actually work on next actions. I've tried blocking time, and pushing back, but so far the demands of my superiors have made those techniques impossible.

    Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

    jpm

  • #2
    Re: Handling The Volume?

    Originally posted by jpm
    I've recently been promoted to a management position, and my area of responsibility has been increased dramatically.

    I typically get between 20 to 40 e-mail messages an hour. This volume is in addition to 1-3 voice mails per hour, A couple of walk-ins in an hour, and a schedule of about 80-90% of the 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. work day scheduled as face to face meetings. My department is at 50% staff for the work-load we're being given, and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to handle this.

    jpm
    Just off the top of my head:

    1) You are spending way too much time in meetings. What are the meetings about? Who are they with?
    2) Is your 50% staffing temporary? Should you be spending time hiring staff and training them?
    3) What is the email about? Is it actionable? Why are you the one who should see it? Ditto voice mail.
    4) Who is walking in and why?
    5) How do your peers manage? Your predecessor? Your boss?
    6) Can you talk to your boss about this? If not, you are being set up for failure.
    7) What is your staff doing to support you? How can you help them support you better?

    Mike

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi JPM,

      Mcogilvie asked some great questions there. I won't repeat those, but with that kind of volume, I think it's important to address them.

      The other thing I am wondering - how many interuptions do you get during a day as opposed to how much time do you have that is not interupted?

      Can you turn off your email and let it accumulate and maybe just hit it in a few short spurts at the beginning of the day, lunch time andend of the day?

      Is a lot of the email for reference - if so, can it be automatically sorted through rules and then you just read it maybe once a day or even once a week?

      Can you group your calls - let them go to voicemail and then respond to those in a couple of sessions too?

      Can you have an open door policy for just certain times of the day and closed door the rest of the day?

      One final question. (maybe more provactive relating to your company rather than you):

      Are all these emails, interuptions and meetings symptamatic of people not knowing what they are doing and why? Would the solution be significantly improved if everyone else was using GTD? Is it possible in your area of management, if not your whole business, to get a system in place, even a training day, to teach the fundamentals so that communication and knowing who has the next action is much more clear. I recently got the GTD Fast CDs and there is one comment David makes about knowing how well a business operates just from seeing how they use in-boxes. If the over all system is in a mess, then you as an individual will for the most part have to react to that - can you be a change agent to improve this.

      Oh final question (for real this time) - just so you have clarity if asking what you want - how much uninterupted time a day do you need to work on those next actions and how could you create this time for yourself? Can you do say 2 hours away from the office even - would your management agree to this?

      Paul

      Comment


      • #4
        Just want to add my tip. Paul alluded to this, but, using Outlook 2003, I set any mail on which I am only CCd to be flagged blue. It makes it easier for me to know what needs my immediate attention.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by webagogue
          ...I set any mail...
          In line with Paul suggestion, autosort as much mail as you can into read/review folders for later (someday) processing.

          Unsubscribe to newsletters no longer of intrest.

          Book meetings with yourself (in a meeting room) for catching up and planning without interuptions.

          Good luck
          Peter

          Comment


          • #6
            In your weekly reviews, identify the projects you're not getting to spend any time on each week. Then inform the stakeholder for each of those projects that you don't have time to work on them, and they'll either need to give them to somebody else or negotiate with your manager for you to take time away from other things to work on them.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Handling The Volume?

              Originally posted by mcogilvie
              Just off the top of my head:

              1) You are spending way too much time in meetings. What are the meetings about? Who are they with?
              2) Is your 50% staffing temporary? Should you be spending time hiring staff and training them?
              3) What is the email about? Is it actionable? Why are you the one who should see it? Ditto voice mail.
              4) Who is walking in and why?
              5) How do your peers manage? Your predecessor? Your boss?
              6) Can you talk to your boss about this? If not, you are being set up for failure.
              7) What is your staff doing to support you? How can you help them support you better?

              Mike
              Great questions Mike:
              Here is a pretty accurate answer:

              We deliver sales support to our field sales team. I manage a team of two (about to expand to 4 with an additional position open.) One person works with field sales, the other works with our partners to run test suites and publish collateral.

              Weekly Meetings:
              16 hours (two full day meetings) Management/Partner planning meetings
              1 hour Team Management Meeting
              1 hour Team Weekly Meeting
              4 hours (Field Rep focused meetings--project related)
              4 hours (partner focused meetings--project related).
              2 hours (1 on 1's with my direct reports)
              2 hours (Business heads of the various field sales units)
              2 hours (Meetings w/ Partner Alliance Managers)

              The killer is what appears to be the standard two day planning meeting with our partners or management. I've been on for a little over 6 weeks now and we've had one of these almost every week...

              50% staffing is temporary. We'll double staff in January, unfortunately the heavy work load occurs during the end of the calender year...

              E-mail is probably the biggest culprit. I'm just getting so much of it that it is difficult to plow through it all. I am pre-sorting to the best of my ability at the moment, but I've been at this job for only a short period of time and I haven't yet been able to come up with rules to automatically process much of the mail. Of course company "news" letters and the like are instantly blasted into the delete bin (Unsubscribing isn't an option...apparently somebody high up the ladder thinks their newsletter is critical reading material).

              Probably 10-40% of the e-mail is actionable. I give a range, because much of our organization takes a scatter-brained approach to firing off 5-7 e-mails for a single subject rather than taking 10 seconds to think before they hit send. This is encouraged by the prevelance of the blackberry and it's continued use inside meetings.

              (Personally abhor this practice... If the meeting isn't important enough for senior management to be paying attention, then it isn't important enough to hold, and if the e-mail is so important that it can't wait until the end of the meeting then ... sorry started a rant...)

              Much of the e-mail is CYA material that I typically just delete. Not only do I not need to see it in this format, it really needs to be put into a weekly status report.

              Some of it is project related and gets filed. The problem is if it's important enough to file, it shouldn't be filed on my hard drive. It should be going into our internal repository. Maybe we need to set up an internal wiki or blog...

              Most voice mail are mostly incoming customer requests trying to subvert the formal request process.

              Walk-ins are 50/50 customer requests subverting the process or social time wasters.

              Management by Peers, Predecessors and boss? Ah, here is the sticky point. Peers and Boss all do MBI (Management by Inbox). I had no predecessor as this is a new position.

              Yes, my boss is probably open to discussing this. I know he is swamped by e-mail as well. I have to solve the problem first however. I cant' come to him with a problem and expect a solution.

              I've been working with staff on other things, and haven't done much with this issue. Don't quite know where I can go with this. Suggestions welcome.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Paul@Pittsburgh
                Hi JPM,

                Are all these emails, interuptions and meetings symptamatic of people not knowing what they are doing and why? Would the solution be significantly improved if everyone else was using GTD? Is it possible in your area of management, if not your whole business, to get a system in place, even a training day, to teach the fundamentals so that communication and knowing who has the next action is much more clear. I recently got the GTD Fast CDs and there is one comment David makes about knowing how well a business operates just from seeing how they use in-boxes. If the over all system is in a mess, then you as an individual will for the most part have to react to that - can you be a change agent to improve this.

                Oh final question (for real this time) - just so you have clarity if asking what you want - how much uninterupted time a day do you need to work on those next actions and how could you create this time for yourself? Can you do say 2 hours away from the office even - would your management agree to this?

                Paul
                Two great questions Paul. I think the answer to the first is one of alignment. Yes, our organization is poorly aligned toward organizational goals. (Not sure I've seen an organization that wasn't poorly aligned.). That starts at the top, and I think at best I can align our team with the goals of our immediate team and with my immediate director (who has a pretty clear vision of our role and purpose). I think a focus on execution is probably something that we should work on.

                As to the second question, I have some flexibility and could potentially do the things you mention. However, in order to do that, I'd need to be in a place where I was basically caught up on both processing and managing tasks. Given the time I have available and the current flow of incoming material to be processed, I don't see how to get there from here.

                Thanks for the suggestions.

                Comment


                • #9
                  AAAAAHRG!

                  <rant>
                  I've been processing e-mail since 1:30 p.m central today and the e-mail count in my inbox folder has gone up instead of down...
                  </rant>

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: AAAAAHRG!

                    Originally posted by jpm
                    <rant>
                    I've been processing e-mail since 1:30 p.m central today and the e-mail count in my inbox folder has gone up instead of down...
                    </rant>
                    Try applying the 2 minute rule, that should leave your in-box empty.

                    Peter

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Neo-Tech Business Control and Managing Management Time

                      My strong recommendations are to get the following:

                      Managing Management Time by William Oncken. Brilliant insights into delegation and 'managing monkey's (tasks such as emails!). Amazon has this.

                      The other is my favourite of all. A grand integrator of business. It's called The Neo-Tech System and will teach you how to have iron-grip-control. This one is a big package at around $150. Call Neo-Tech Publishing and order direct on 1 702 891 0300.

                      Any one else here familiar with either?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: AAAAAHRG!

                        Originally posted by pjuhl
                        Originally posted by jpm
                        <rant>
                        I've been processing e-mail since 1:30 p.m central today and the e-mail count in my inbox folder has gone up instead of down...
                        </rant>
                        Try applying the 2 minute rule, that should leave your in-box empty.

                        Peter
                        I was applying the 2 minute rule. The problem was that e-mail was coming in at the rate of about 1 every 10 seconds from about 1:30 to 5:00... After it tapered off I eventually got In close to empty....

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Yikes, if you had that many 2-Minute emails, surely YOU, yourself did not need to answer them..... right? Surely, many of the emails you spent your afternoon with were not ones that ONLY you could answer?

                          Couldn't such emails be filtered and re-directed to your assistant?

                          Or is it that you, in this new promotion, are actually expected to spend a full afternoon answering emails, which are arriving every ten seconds?

                          I'm absolutely astonished by how you spend your workday.

                          Have lots of people recently quit, and that is why you are so understaffed?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Grateful
                            Yikes, if you had that many 2-Minute emails, surely YOU, yourself did not need to answer them..... right? Surely, many of the emails you spent your afternoon with were not ones that ONLY you could answer?

                            Couldn't such emails be filtered and re-directed to your assistant?

                            Or is it that you, in this new promotion, are actually expected to spend a full afternoon answering emails, which are arriving every ten seconds?

                            I'm absolutely astonished by how you spend your workday.

                            Have lots of people recently quit, and that is why you are so understaffed?
                            I was not answering every e-mail. I was simply processing them in the true GTD sense. They were coming in faster than I could _process_ them not answer them, I was even holding myself to a 30 second rule becasue of the volume....

                            My company doesn't believe in assistants. Maybe with my next promotion to director level... pretty much only directors or Sr. Directors or above have assistants.

                            We are a new organization within our company. We're at half staff because we are ramping up. Workload will drop and staff will increase in January so some of this is only temporary...

                            From what I can tell, our corporate culture has an expectation that managers spend 8 hours plus a day in meetings while responding to e-mail instantaneously on their blackberry and getting a good four hours of real work done. Complaints about the volume at work have lead to comments about needing to learn to "multi-task", which I believe is the wrong approach....

                            I too am astonished at how I'm spending my work day...

                            jpm

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Neo-Tech Business Control and Managing Management Time

                              Originally posted by processor
                              Managing Management Time by William Oncken. Brilliant insights into delegation and 'managing monkey's (tasks such as emails!). Amazon has this.

                              The other is my favourite of all. A grand integrator of business. It's called The Neo-Tech System and will teach you how to have iron-grip-control. This one is a big package at around $150. Call Neo-Tech Publishing and order direct on 1 702 891 0300.
                              Thanks Processer, I'll check out the Oncken book. I've read some of the Neo-Tech stuff and found it, interesting, bud difficult to comprehend and in places a little bit loopy, though in other places I think it was spot on.

                              jpm

                              Comment

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