The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Managing the Noise: Email June 18, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Planning,Tools — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:12 am
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Last month, I wrote a post on how to mange the “noise” of Twitter.

I’m following that up with a post on how to manage your email.

I get a lot of email. I send more. Email is the main tool with which I run my business. I’d say I probably receive between 50-100 emails a day. And there was a time, a few months back, when my Inbox was up around 2,000, and things were getting missed. It actually caused me quite a bit of anxiety: I’d be out somewhere doing something, and I’d suddenly remember an email I forgot to return! Panic!

But then, last year, I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I implemented a new email system, and have had a few months to tinker around with it, and am finding it’s working great for me. I regularly get my inbox to 0, and I have a system in place so I don’t forget to return emails.

I’d like to share it with you.

My email inbox

1. First, you have to deal with your existing inbox. If you are like me, I had a lot of email in there. Know that it’s going to take you a while to get through it, and maybe dedicate an hour or a few mintues every day to getting through it. After you have gotten your inbox to 0, you just need to do this every few days or once a week, depending on how much volume you get. It becomes about maintenance.

2. You need to classify every single piece of email in your inbox. Most email programs, even web-based ones, allow you to create folders in your email. I have a folder for every contract I am currently working on, plus another couple random ones: one for family stuff, one for Michael stuff, and one for “pending” (I’ll explain that in a sec).

3. Start at the bottom of your Inbox, and look at every single email.

  • If it’s dealt with, but contains some information that you may need in the future, move it to the appropriate project folder.
  • If it’s dealt with, and you won’t need any of the info in the email again, delete it.
  • If the email needs a response, and you can respond to it within a minute or two (ie: immediately), then do so, then put it into the appropriate folder.
  • If it requires a response that’s going to take you some time to work out, respond accordingly: “I’ll get back to you on this,” and then place it into the “Pending” folder.

4. Lather, rinse, repeat until your Inbox is 0!

5. Every once in a while, say once a week, go through your “Pending” file and see if there are any emails you can deal with and move out. Once I’ve wrapped up a contract, I just delete the entire email file.

6. I do this every couple of days, but if you don’t have a lot of email, you could do it once per week. Friday is the best day, because it allows you to start your weekend with a clean slate, stress-free (hopefully).

How do you deal with your overwhelming email? I’d love to hear if you have a system that works, or, if you try mine, how you modified it to work for your specific needs.

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Getting Things Done December 9, 2009

Filed under: book review,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:41 am
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If you’re anything like me, you probably often feel that there is never enough time in the day. Between the day-to-day duties of running my own business, taking care of my son, shopping/cooking/laundry/cleaning, spending time with friends and working on the future of my business, well, there’s just never enough time to get it all done.

I think I manage my time pretty well. But I always feel like there’s room for improvement. So I turned to David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

What’s interesting about this book is that it’s not about time management. It’s about developing systems to make your time more efficiently spent.

I don’t know if this has happened to you before, but in the past, there have been times when I would check my email, and see something that maybe didn’t need to be taken care of right away, and thought, “I’ll do that later.” Then, a week later, while driving somewhere in the car, I’d suddenly remember that I’d forgotten to deal with it and panic!

David Allen helps you to create a system for dealing with your “stuff”, be it physical (pieces of paper, whatever), mental. or virtual (email). The joy of having this kind of system in place is what he calls “closing loops.” What that means, is, you can feel less stress, because you aren’t always going around thinking, “what is it that I forgot to do?” Allan’s system allows you to forget, knowing that you’re covered.

Here are a couple of tips I found particularly useful:

1. When dealing with your “stuff”, if a task can be completed in less than 2 minutes, just do it. If it can’t, file it away in a folder to be dealt with later, then go back and check that file at a prescribed time every week.

2. I now get my email in box to zero every Friday. I spend a couple of hours Friday morning going through every email in my in box. If I’ve dealt with them, I delete them, or if it’s important and I need to keep them, I file them in the appropriate file. If it’s something I’ve forgotten to deal with, this is where it gets done.

3. We often deal with large projects the wrong way. We look at what we want the end result to be, and then often feelĀ  overwhelmed, because we don’t know where to start. So, instead of writing to-do lists like “get car fixed” or “Michael’s birthday party”, ask yourself this question: “what is the first next thing I need to do to move this project along?” That might be, “call the mechanic and make an appointment” or “ask Michael’s teacher for a list of all the kids in his class.” This way, you are making progress, moving things along. You’re unstuck, which is what being overwhelmed tends to feel like.

I haven’t yet had time to put all of Allen’s suggestions into practice, as some of it takes quite a bit of time to get through. I am putting aside time over the next two weeks to get through it. Perhaps there will be a part two to this blog post….

I highly recommend this book.

Click here for David Allen’s website.

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