Email Efficiency

A (significantly) modified post which had been sitting in my drafts since November 2009 (or maybe twas 2008).

Photo Credit: Snail Mail? by tupilak

Email alias Web Mail
Email together with phone, social networking tools & instant messaging is one of the main forms of communication, if not the most widely used for business. Email is undeniably easy to use, low-cost & near instantaneous. Yet due to its popularity, email overload can become a problem with hundreds (or in severe cases thousands) of emails arriving in each individual’s inbox daily. And if one was to go out of office for a few days or a week…

Cutting Email Down to Byte-Size
Going through emails, or even worse searching & sifting through to find a specific email is an arduous task. Yet how you handle your incoming email has the biggest impact on whether email is manageable or a time-wasting evil. One way to overcome email-ritis is by working smart with 3 simple steps when you receive an email:
1. Delete the email if its worthless (hints: spam folder, personal ‘junk/misc’ email account for non-work stuff)
2. Reply immediately if it needs a response (as opposed to re-reading it & leaving it cluttering your inbox)
3. OR file it away in its specific folder/category (if you will need it again at another time)

Folders Usage
Folders itself should be sorted out into categories that make sense. Try not to setup folders based on ‘who’ sends the email but more towards the category that best fits it. Use sub-folders as well but keep it within 2 or max 3 levels deep. Old emails/projects that are no longer required/closed should be archived or moved into another backup folder. Do a clean-up of your folders/backup at least once a year.

Getting Started
If your inbox has less than 30 emails (read + unread), then you’re in great shape! Else if your inbox has 500++ emails you’re going to need a strategy to clean your inbox. Proposed is to move all your existing email into a temp ‘To Sort’ folder. In the meantime, all new emails receive should follow the 3 simple steps above (delete/reply/file). When free or having spare time, spend time on your ‘To Sort’ folder to delete/reply/file those emails.

If you’re doing well, you will find yourself being more effective & efficient. Better (amazing) response time to emails sent to you. No more complaints of you not replying to urgent items & time savings by having to read an email usually only once. When looking for a specific email, you save vast amounts of time as well as it has all sorted out into the specific folder making it easy to find. Also if you spend too much time looking at your inbox the whole day (or for Outlook users compulsively pressing the F9 button), it may make sense for you to set certain times of the day only to check email OR for your email to download every 30/60 minutes.

All the best in mastering your email!

Queries on any of the above suggestions?
Or any other tips or suggestions for email efficiency to share?

The Study Tips

Study tips also in the top 10 style πŸ˜‰ Funny that I’ve only coming up with list many years after stopping studies & re-starting again to take masters. Still hopefully this helps someone out there. I wish there was a list like these many years back. So here I try!

Photo Credit: The Study by m0thyyku

10. Study during your peak energy level time(s) (yawn)

9. Studying just before sleeping (somehow) helps retention

8.1. Read up or at least skim through before the class. It helps to be able to focus on processing what the lecturer is saying rather than trying to process alien Greek.

8.2. Read up or at least briefly review after the class. Best way to non-study study.

7. Group studies if that’s your thing (and you have the discipline) & quick bite notes.

6. Mind-mapping

5. Quickly run through the reading/chapter once. No need to re-read any sections even if you don’t understand all of it. Then only read thoroughly & highlight/underline all the key facts

4. Books (that you own) are meant to be written, notation & scribbled on. Doodling is bad. Unless you’re doing art.

3. Reward yourself on a job well done (How & when? Depends on how deep your/parents pockets are & How much you can delay instant gratification)

2. Get enough sleep (and you get to live longer too). 7-8 hours no matter whether you’re 16 or 60.

1. If you have a choice, study something you are truly interested in. The same as working, studying is hours of fun if you love the subject!

(Yes I know there are actually eleven tips) Any other excellent study trips that you’d like to add smart alley-cat? πŸ˜‰

Top Ten Finance Tips

A random list of the top of my head πŸ™‚

Photo Credit: money by gerardissex

10. To get financially savvy, read (or skim) the Business Section in papers, financial magazines, etc. At first it won’t make sense. Over time, it will.

9. If you are with a partner, discuss finances together. It helps if one is more inclined towards spending & the other towards spending for check & balance. If you are single, learn or find a system that works. Do not trust your dog or cat as your finance adviser πŸ˜‰

8. New cars depreciate very fas

7. Clothes, wine & most hobbies are not monetary investments (no matter what they say otherwise – those situations are rare & few like Detective Comics #1)

6. Invest in stocks if: A) You are interested, learned & can afford mistakes in investing B) You are substituting the word ‘investing’ for ‘gambling’

5. Else stick in Unit Trusts. (And despite the disclaimers, pick the ones with the best long-term return %)

4. The 95:5 rule apply. Following 95% of the crowd makes you lose money. Be the 5%.

3. It’s never to young to start learning (or teaching) others on saving & investing.

2. It’s never really too late (and you wouldn’t be reading this article if otherwise…)

1. Pay yourself first is (still) the most important rule of all!

What did you think of the Top Ten Finance Tips list? Any other great finance tips that I missed out?

PS. I just made up the 95:5 rule (I think :P)

It’s All About the Money

From an evening discussion a few weeks back where I did more listening than talking

Money Money by meppol

Why do we work?
Is it as simple as an exchange of our time for money?

The argument presented was that these were the most important things for us working

  • Money
  • Position
  • Environment

Generally agreed to the above list, except that I would define it as

  • Remuneration
  • Recognition
  • Self-Development

But if we were to trim the list on why we work, is money the single most important thing?
It honestly does depend very much on the individual – and no one can tell you otherwise.

For myself, self-development comes above the other factors. I am with my current employment due to the simple fact that I have and continue to have many opportunities for learning and development. Opportunities that are valuable to my personal knowledge and skills growth.

We can’t run from the fact that remuneration is important. Personally, I think it’s best with fair pay being given according to the rates offered in the industry and free-market factors. If you’d like to earn more, you can perform better, get promoted or change to a different line which pays more. As simple as that.

And a short note on recognition is that it is of course valuable as being human, it motivates us to know that our efforts are being appreciated and that we are making a difference.

Moving on though back to the question of money being the chart topper. I think it surprisingly (or unsuprisingly) depends on your outlook on life. Why are you here on earth? What are you doing every day in your life? And if you know the answer to that question, then you’d know the answer to what’s the most important thing about work.

Why do you work?

Theory E & Theory O

Plug for friends: WW21.6 (May 23, 2009) 9AM-6PM @ Penang International Squash Center
Help squash make the 2016 Olympics. Win cool prizes or bid for a date with women’s world champion Nicol David.

Image Credit: 7shadows
Photo Credit: expectations by 7shadows

Source: Harvard Business Review May-June 2000

Why & How Changes are to be Made:-
Theory E: Based on Economic value
Theory O: Based on Organizational capability

Theory E
Main focus is on shareholder value involves:-
Economic incentives
Drastic layoffs, Downsizing, Restructuring

Theory O
Develop corporate culture & human capability through individual & organizational learning
Process of changing, obtaining feedback, reflecting & making further changes
Typically have strong, long-held, commitment-based contracts with their employees

E versus O
β€’ E: Top-down approach with little involvement from managers/lower-levels
β€’ O: Get all employees emotionally committed & focus on bottom-up

β€’ E: Streamlining β€œhardware” – structures & systems
β€’ O: Building up β€œSoftware” – culture, behavior & attitude of employees

β€’ E: Viewpoint held that battle requires clear, comprehensive, common plan of action with specific deadlines
β€’ O: Changes and more evolutionary & emergent; Using innovative work processes, values & culture changes adopted from one dpmt/plant to another

Reward System
β€’ E: Primarily financial $$$
β€’ O: Compensation supports goal of culture change & but does NOT drive these goals; E.g. Skills-based pay system, Profit-sharing plans

β€’ E: Rely heavily on external consultants – E.g. To identify many painful cost-cutting initiatives
β€’ O: Rely far less on consultants – E.g. To help managers & workers analyze their own solutions

Note: Click for larger view

Combining E & O
To build a company that can adapt, survive & prosper over the years, both E & O strategies must be combined
CAUTION: Mixing E & O techniques can destabilize the company
E.g. FEW exceptions like Jack Welsh, GE’s CEO by imposing E-type restructuring demanding all GE businesses be 1st or 2nd in their industry, else sold off
After laying off > 100k employees, switch to O strategy by initiative to change GE culture to be boundary-less with open feedback & communication
Note: Also very difficult to implement O before E as employees will distrust the company

Strategies for Combining E & O
Focus on both Hard (Economic value) + Soft (Transforming culture) – E.g. Freeze pay-rises; Less hierarchy & more transparency
Plan for Spontaneity to allow real experimentation without penalizing for failures – E.g. Actively promote new ideas/testing to drive innovation
Incentive to reinforce but NOT drive change: To apply Theory E incentives in an O way – E.g. Pay to reward commitment (stock options) & employees pay based on corporate & personal performance
Consultants as Expert Resources to Empower: To provide specialized knowledge & technical skills company lacking especially in early stages of change

Are you in a Theory E or Theory O company? Which works better?
(Also are these ‘Rat Race’ posts interesting to you guys? ;))