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  • Help! I'm still drowning in email and calls!

    While GTD has helped me get a handle on all that I need to do, I'm still drowning in email and phone calls. Here's the problem.

    I deal with all my under two minute emails as I read them. That part works out fine. Out of my 60 to 70 emails per day, I may have 10 to 15 that require only a fairly lengthy response (no other action) that may take 10 to 15 minutes to write and send (I do type fast so that's not an issue). That means that those emails alone will take anywhere from around 1 1/2 hours to 4 hours. I may also have 5 phone calls that will actually take 15 to 20 minutes of time each, so that's another 1+ hours. When you add in an additional 1 to 2 hours per day just reading other emails and responding to the under two minute ones, I've not got anywhere from 3 1/2 to 7 1/2 hours just dealing with email and phone calls and not doing any other work. How do I handle all this? I don't have anyone to delegate to. I need suggestions!

    Thanks in advance,
    Cheryll

  • #2
    Originally posted by cheryll1
    While GTD has helped me get a handle on all that I need to do, I'm still drowning in email and phone calls. Here's the problem.

    I deal with all my under two minute emails as I read them. That part works out fine. Out of my 60 to 70 emails per day, I may have 10 to 15 that require only a fairly lengthy response (no other action) that may take 10 to 15 minutes to write and send (I do type fast so that's not an issue). That means that those emails alone will take anywhere from around 1 1/2 hours to 4 hours. I may also have 5 phone calls that will actually take 15 to 20 minutes of time each, so that's another 1+ hours. When you add in an additional 1 to 2 hours per day just reading other emails and responding to the under two minute ones, I've not got anywhere from 3 1/2 to 7 1/2 hours just dealing with email and phone calls and not doing any other work. How do I handle all this? I don't have anyone to delegate to. I need suggestions!

    Thanks in advance,
    Cheryll

    Hi Cheryl,

    I would say that you need to find a way to reduce the amount you need to respond to and reduce the length of what you reply with.

    This can be something you develop over time with yourself but also with the people you are dealing with. If they are receive regular correspondence from them. Perhaps go back and ask them to bulletpoint any main issues so you can get thru the emails quicker.

    You certainly need a strategy.

    Petey

    Comment


    • #3
      What I do (in Outlook) is have a few filters to dump frequent-but-low-priority messages (like newsletters) out of the Inbox into a separate holding folder.

      I've also started processing my e-mail by customizing the "Current View":

      1. right-click on a sort column and choose "Customize Current View"
      2. click on the "Sort..." button
      3. set the first cyclic field to "Subject"; Ascending
      4. set the second cyclic field to "Received"; Ascending
      5. OK the forms.

      That way I can process whole threads of discussion at once (sorted by subject). I figure out my next action based on the thread as a whole, not each individual message, then move the whole thread of messages into my archive or appropriate sub-folder.

      Hope this helps!

      Andrew.

      Comment


      • #4
        Do any of the e-mails require similar sorts of responses? If so, you could keep a folder of "standard" draft responses, which would require only minor editing to personallize for the individual reply.

        Comment


        • #5
          Help! I'm still drowning in email and calls!

          I've already got rules set up so that newsletters, etc. go to a separate folder and I'm considering setting one up to have any mail not sent directly to me (where I'm cc'd) sent directly to another folder. Has anyone tried that and how did it work for you?

          They're not of a similar type where a standard reply will work.

          I tried creating actions for them so I could get to them later, but my task list quickly got out of control.

          Comment


          • #6
            "Doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the right things"

            The above quote is from Covey's "First Things First". I do not intend it as a put-down in any way, but a reminder.

            It might be useful to think about your job from the point of view of your boss or, better yet, an external consultant reporting to your boss's boss's boss. What processes are generating the calls and e-mails ? Are they now working in the best interests of the organization ? Can those processes be changed ?

            Three reasons why thinking this way can be useful:
            1. You could end up causing the reduction of the amount of incoming phone and e-mail volume into your role.
            2. You could end up working on the project and could use that to negotiate someone else handling some or all of the phone and e-mail workload.
            3. That kind of thinking and project work could get you into a better-paying position with a higher quality of phone calls and e-mails.

            Use this advice at your own risk. YMMV.

            Comment


            • #7
              Even using GTD, it is possible that your job is simply too much for one person to handle, and you may need to discuss this with your boss.

              You mention you have no-one to delegate to. What happens when you go on holiday (you do TAKE holidays, don't you...)? Do you come back to a mountain range of emails and a nervous breakdown, or does someone handle them while you're away? If so, is there any way you could go to your boss with a proposal that you share some tasks permanently with this person? Or if you work in a team, could tasks be divvied up more equitably within the team?

              Good luck!

              Comment


              • #8
                Cheryll,

                I can't quite tell from your posts whether you're reading / processing your email inbox once or twice a day, or whether it's a constant thing that you keep coming back to. I've found that on days when I read each email as it comes in, or each time I come back to my desk, it seems like I spend all day on my email. But if I set aside a certain number of times each day to process my email, and ignore it until those times, I can blow through a lot of them very quickly, often spending only 5 or 10 seconds on emails that I just need to see and then toss. So maybe "batching" the emails (which really just amounts to processing your email inbox at specific times, and not as a constant all day) might streamline the process a little and free up some time. Plus when you sit down to write the longer emails, you're not being interrupted mentally by the appearance of other incoming messages.

                Brian

                Comment


                • #9
                  It sounds like you have a workload problem, not a GTD problem.

                  Where are the emails and phone calls coming from? How does answering them fit into your job responsibilities?

                  Either answering those emails is an integral part of your job, or it isn't. Either you need to build the time to answer them into your schedule (and decide what has to go to make room), or you need to give yourself permission to not answer them.

                  Katherine

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Cheryll1, I once tried filtering newsgroup and listserv email to other folders but I found I really let that get out of control. I ended up canceling those subscriptions. For me, the few inboxes I have the better. By setting up those filter and folders I was creating extra inboxes.

                    If those emails you cc'd on are not urgent you could filter them to a Read/Review folder.

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