Archive for the ‘Excellence’ Category

Work offline, get stuff done

Friday, December 12th, 2008

We live in distracting times, where any task can easily get derailed.

We surf the net, recheck pages, answer emails, juggle cell phone calls…and then there is the real world.

Today, I believe our greatest productivity challenge comes from these distractions.

There’s one distraction you can get rid of: Incoming information.

When I need to work on a task, say writing this blog post or creating a marketing plan, I turn off incoming email (work offline) and close my web browsers. My phone is set to silent. When the task is over, I turn everything back on and retrieve my emails.

This process works.

Many of you say, “I don’t need to turn off the distractions, just ignore them.” But you can’t. The Yahoo home page is too tempting to refresh (stocks, scores, news). You cannot ignore that little envelope that says, “you’ve got mail.” You can’t let a ringing cell phone float into email. You can’t. That’s why you need to turn it all off.

Here’s a side benefit to sole-tasking: You decrease stress in your work life. In 2006, I co-authored a study with Heartmath that measured the relationship between being constantly interrupted and work place depression. It is an eye opener. Check out the study results to see if you have NEDS.
Study on New Economy Depression Syndrome

Master Your Subject Line

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Face it; your emails are part of a snow storm blowing into someone’s Crack berry.

Your carefully worded opus is part of a day’s load of information that you expect to poke through, get read and hopefully elicit a response.

If you want to jump out of the e-noise and improve your readership with your email buddies you need to hone your skills at writing good subject lines.

The basics are:
* Vague is bad
* Hey! is not a real subject line
* RE: RE: FW: FW: is not attractive and will not be read right away

When I know someone well, I will make a call to action in the subject line if my email is intended to get someone to do something. If I need to change a call, I put it in the subject line. If I need you to send me a file, I put it in the subject. You’d be amazed how your response rates jumps.

When I am in a less intimate business relationship, I work on a three to five word subject that zeros in on why I’m sending the email. If we are working on an event together I’ll put “About the sales conference” in the subject.

When you reply, feel free to start a new subject (too often we just reply and the subject line stays the same, except now with a RE: before it.) Let the new subject line redefine where the email thread is going. This not only helps to focus the email exchange on a real outcome, it keeps the conversation going.

This is especially true if many of your email buddies are on black berry. They scroll through subjects and make their choices almost on impulse. Most of the devices (like the TREO) will just show you subjects, not authors and you have to open it to know more.

In those cases, you can be the most effective just putting your name in the subject line. When I’m reconnecting with someone, for example, I always put “From Tim Sanders” in the subject line. Again, I’ve noticed a much quicker response.

All the comments on the blog are helpful and I’d like to invite readers to contribute their best advice for writing a subject line that gets results! This is an advice blog, so let’s start cross sharing advice — espcially if it can improve our email lives.

Share one of your email tips or stories with us and win!

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

When I created this blog (and the company behind it), the whole idea was to create a knowledge community around how we use email in our business life. Email is a huge part of how we communicate, and it dominates our digital life. To master it, is to become much more effective.

Have you got an email horror story to share? Have you figured out a special tip or technique that helps you be successful in your email life? Have you found a solution to a common email related problem?

If so, write a post for this blog, and if I use it — I’ll send you an advance copy of “The Dirty Dozen Rules Of Email Management”. This DVD is not available anywhere yet, but you get one with a thoughtful post.

Thanks in advance!
Tim Sanders, CEO of Deeper Media Inc.

Email Joy

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

A well-crafted, sincere expression of appreciation over email can be a fabulous surprise. Take my friend Rose. Rose’s work is demanding. Because her company’s headquarters is 3,000 miles away, Rose often struggles with feeling isolated in her work.

Recently, I met Rose for lunch and she was beaming. She told me about an email she received from her colleague expressing deep appreciation for some of the specific contributions she has made to her program’s success, as well as for how much fun it was to work with her. Rose memorized this missive, saved it, and, later, read it to me.

It’s amazing what a little appreciation can do to revive a drooping spirit. Rose liked her company and her job better after receiving that email.

Expressing gratitude for others’ contributions vivifies biz life and ripples outward to enliven the organization.

Think about how you might use email to make someone’s day. Try to send an expression of appreciation to somebody different everyday.

And… mix it up! Expand your attitude of gratitude to phone calls, face to face meetings, and tangible cards, notes, and letters.

Jennifer Gordon, Cool Breeze Marketing

E-Quakes are common, are you ready?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

A recent study indicates that over half of all companies have had email downtime in the last year.

For information workers, having email go down can grind business to a fault. In some cases, data is lost, in others emails wait days to be sent or received.

What can you do about it? First of all, delete what you don’t need, archive often and watch the size of files sent over that platform (use YouSendIt for files larger than 5 megs). That’s the finding of the study.

Most important: Back up everything, have an alternative email account (I use Yahoo Mail) and have a contingency plan for your next email outage.

Build a Solid Email with Your Grammar-Hammer

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Articulate and respectful emails are relationship builders. To construct such emails, use your Grammar-Hammer.

No one is too busy to take the time to use correct grammar. Yesterday, I received an email that read, “do u have time to meet this pm”.

Immediately, I felt that the sender was not paying proper attention to our relationship, was lazy, and felt he had much more important things to do than to communicate with me.

No matter how you look at it, emails with poor grammar are poor personal branding. Neglect of grammar erodes relationships. Emails with poor grammar are inappropriate responses. They make the writer look stupid and frustrate the reader.

None of us want our colleagues and clients to think of us as stupid or careless. Careless grammar implies a careless person. I’ve noticed that email replies with poor grammar rarely respond thoughtfully to my original missive. Rather, I then need to try again to communicate with the sender, which wastes my time and weakens our relationship.

When we construct emails without our Grammar-Hammer, we put ourselves in the Grammar-Slammer. We shackle our own credibility and relevance in others’ eyes.

A few basic Grammar-Hammer pointers to boost your brand:

1. Slow down.
2. Use capital letters at the beginning of each sentence.
3. Capitalize proper nouns (names of people, companies and places, - along with months and days of the week)
4. Always end each statement with a period.
5. Always end each question with a question mark.
6. Spell correctly.
7. Proofread your email before you address and send it.

By the way, “Do you have time to meet this afternoon?”

Posted by Jennifer Gordon, Consultant at EmailAtoZ.com (contact her at Jennifer@EmailAtoZ.com to bring her expertise to your company.)

Observe The 2 Minute Rule

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I’ve just had a bad customer experience that could have been avoided with a phone call.

I hired a company to help with develop a product. They gave me a specific delivery date, then missed it by weeks, causing me to lose money. When I emailed my sales rep to tell him how disappointed I was, I received back a very short email from him that basically said, “This is why it happened. Thanks for understanding.”

I emailed back with more specifics on why I was upset and he replied with another short and sweet email (hoping I would go away). I’ll never do business with that company again. His emails made the problem worse. What should he have done? He should have picked up the phone immediately, called me, and smoothed it out in realtime.

Here’s a good rule for running a business, I call it the 2 Minute Rule.

If one of your customers sends you an email that indicates that they are not happy with your service or product, within two minutes, pick up the phone and call them to talk about it. If you can, do it even faster.

This will produce surprise and delight.

Imagine emailing a sales rep at one of your vendors a nastygram and then having your phone ring a few seconds later with an answer. Chances are, you’ll have a conversation that leads to a positive resolution. Chances are, the business relationship would continue or maybe improve through the experience. Try it. If you run a company, you should require your sales reps and customer service managers to live by the rule.

As I mentioned before in a previous post, research indicates that tone of voice is five times more effective at conveying your intentions than words on paper (or in an email). When you pick up the phone, you increase your effectiveness at resolving customer service issues.

Turn off the digital chatter and save your sanity (at work)

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

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Blog reader (and good friend) Seth Dechtman pointed me to an interesting article (Lost In Email) from the New York Times that talks about how companies are trying to tackle information overload and constant interruptions at work.

These companies are smart to deal with this issue. My own research confirms that overload combined with the constant interruption of incoming emails makes work more stressful and leads to depression and lost productivity (The NEDS Study).

What can you come up with to help your company break free from the shackles of always on? Post your replies in comments.

Check out the New York Times article (Lost In Emal)

Audit an email relationship

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Sometimes you can turn a great working relationship into a broken one over email.

Think about how many emails you exchange with your partners at work. Take, for example, the last fifty emails you’ve sent your right hand person (if you have one). If you isolated them, and just read what you wrote, should you be proud?

I challenge you to audit the last fifty emails you’ve sent to a trusted business partner. Read them for tone, intension, friendliness, reasonableness and crypticness. Imagine you received them, all in a pile over just a week or so. How would you feel? Are you coming across as a coach or a dictator?

If you do this exercise, you’ll realize that email is really a poor way to say no or talk about emotionally charged things. The phone truly the next best thing to being there.

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