Time Guzzlers … Paperwork and Email!

Time Management CourseIn large organizations, a great deal of communication is in written format. The key to managing paperwork is to handle each piece of paper only once. To do this, decide where each letter or memo or other piece of paper belongs. Here is a simple system that can be adapted to your specific needs.

Try to throw out paper immediately upon receipt. Either, act on it, or recognize it’s just not important enough to warrant you attention. If you can’t, then put it in a “designated” place. You may never look at it again, but it will not be in a pile, and it will be retrievable.

Anything important belongs either in its place or in an ACTION file/place. When you don’t have a “designated” place, i.e., a file, a shelf, a drawer (labeled, of course) … force yourself to create the category. You will be amazed how few pieces survive this process … they are either thrown out, or stored in a designated place.

Determine if you can direct some reports to a Delegate to a subordinate for action and follow-up or see if you can be removed from certain distribution lists.

Here are a few additional tips that are not a part of a system, but will help you deal effectively with:

The Paper Avalanche

• Delegate routine paperwork to a team member who may be more knowledgeable than you are about certain issues.
• Reduce the amount of papers you generate. If you don’t need to write the memo and can handle the matter with a short conversation, eliminate the memo.
• If you routinely produce a report, but you are not sure how many people read it carefully, or even indifferently, try not writing it. See how many people notice that they haven’t received it. If almost nobody misses it, you can stop producing it.
• Ask yourself if the message has to be sent, if it has to be in written form, if a record is really needed, and if a copy is necessary.
• Respond to your mail by writing a few words or a sentence at the bottom or in the margin. A quickly penned “Yes” or “No” or “Great idea!” will save a surprising amount of time and eliminate the need for another letter or memo.
• Cancel routine journal and magazine subscriptions. If you miss the material, you can always reinstate the subscription.
• Use the online services of your professional organizations to search for what you want, as needed.

Managing E-Mail
Used intelligently, e-mail can help reduce telephone tag and ensure that information is accessible at all times. The major benefits are no time wasted playing telephone tag, no interruptions, no time zone problems, and no lost message slips. In addition, you can send the same message to dozens of people simultaneously, for instance, to everyone who might need to see a meeting schedule change.

However, many associates find that dealing with e-mail has also become a time challenge for them. They are greeted with literally dozens of e-mail messages when they arrive at work, and dozens more arrive during the day. What was supposed to be a great time saver has turned into a major time problem for many people.

Here are a few techniques to control that bulging Email box:

• Create filters that will trap “junk” mail and delete it automatically. Each email program requires you to set and define filters according to a specific set of instructions. Consult you manual or the “Help” menu. If your organization has an IT department, a professional will be able to help you set your filters.
• When you are surfing the internet, some website send “cookies” to your computer so that their subscribers can send you e-mail without your permission. This is referred to as junk mail. If a web site asks you to accept cookies, consider declining the offer. This may not solve the “junk” mail problem, but it will reduce the amount of unwanted emails.
• Decide if an e-mail is really necessary at all, and if it is not, don’t send it.
• Edit and reduce the number of people on your distribution lists. This will eventually prevent you from receiving certain emails if their system was set to automatically add you to their mailing list.
• Write e-mails with care, so that others will read them. By writing clearly, you increase the likelihood that your messages will be read with attention and you will get the results you want or need from those messages.
• Don’t ask for a receipt unless you really need one
• Make your e-mails easy to respond to, such as by providing a simple yes or no check box at the bottom, and whenever possible, structure the message so that no reply is required.
• Set up a folder system for e-mails by person, function or issue. This will make it easy for you to find information when you need it.

The Training Shelf Newsletter covers a wide variety of topics that relate to leadership, management and small business, so you can refresh your skills as needed. Don’t forget that you can search the archives depending on your interest.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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