Archive for the ‘Strategy’ 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

ABC Reports on “No Email Fridays”

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Click here for a link to ABC News Report on No Email Friday?

So US Cellular has implemented a company policy, “No Emails on Friday.” They thought it might be a neat idea if employees met face to face or better yet, picked up the phone and talked to someone.

Hmmm, a phone service provider is trying to dissuade workers from using their email and suggesting instead they use the phone?  Seems suspiciously like a marketing ploy they hope will catch on, perhaps with US Cellular subscribers….

Okay, call me cynical.  But unless Google tries to get us to use the encyclopedia once a week, or starts a “Go to the Library on Fridays” campaign, then I might be on to something.

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.

Don’t get bit by a spider

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Never post your email address online. Ever.

If you have a blog, post to bulletin boards or write articles for online distribution you might be doing this right now. When you do, you open yourself up to mega spam.

Why? Many spammers or list houses use webcrawling programs, spiders, to collect email addresses posted online. Once caught by a spider’s web, your email address gets sold dozens or even hundreds of times to a variety of companies that want to sell you something.

On my site I use a contact form. If you want to contact me, you fill it out and I receive it in my inbox. Spiders don’t fill out forms. Also, you can post your email address with an insertion that only a human would understand. If your email address is bozo@yahoo.com, you should post it online as bozo_nospam@yahoo.com. Tell the reader to take out _nospam to reveal your actual address.

You can also use the free service at Address Munger. It scrambles the coding so humans see your email address posted on a site, but the spiders don’t.

Unless you like to get the latest news on mortgage rates or sexual performance, follow this simple advice as you live online. Yes, it is important to be contacted easily via email — but it is just as important to reduce the spam clutter in your life. I’ve seen too many friends have to change their email address to escape the spam that even the best filters cannot catch.

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.

Obey Email Preferences

Monday, June 23rd, 2008


If you want to have a productive relationship, especially with someone of power, obey their preferences when it comes to email.

I learned this lesson at a critical point of my life at Yahoo.  Anil Singh ran Yahoo’s sales and marketing groups for years and was the guru of numbers.  He is a brilliant and powerful man, and everybody wanted to work for him.  So he was pummeled with information, most of it useless.  I wrote him an opus about a meeting I attended with a huge prospective partner.   The next day, from his cube, he pointed to me and motioned me into his space.

“Look at all this reading material”, he opened.  He was sitting in a mountain of documents, charts and bound reports.

“You should be able to fit any email message into my preview pane.  Otherwise, come see me or call.”

I immediately realized that I could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.  Anil is a “preview pane” guy that wants pithy, to the point requests and answers to his emailed questions.  For anything complicated, he liked warmer levels of contact (email cold, face to face real warm).  I honored that request from that day forward and it made a huge difference in my relationship with him.  When I went to work for Greg Coleman and later Wenda Millard, I learned their email preferences right away and stuck to them.  This is a little known secret about how to handle brand new relationships at work.  If you make this as important as knowing their birthday or their favorite football team — you will go far in your BizLife.  Most people will not tell you like Anil told me.  That was good luck, a gift.  To obey, you first need to ask about the rules.

Dr. Tony Alessandra coined the phrase, “The Platinum Rule”.  Whereas the Golden Rule says that you reflect your preferences on others (which would suck for them if you are self-destructive), the Platinum Rule says, “do unto others as they want to be done unto!”.

Yep, that’s right.   New email law:  obey preferences.

Editors Note: Thanks to Scott Zimmerman, Managing Partner at Platinum Rule Group for setting us straight on where the Platinum Rule came from.

Don’t write War and Peace over email.

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

More than ever, less is more when it comes to words in our email Inbox. Did you know that the average information worker (like you and me) reads the equivalent of a novel every two days?  And we read it at lightening speed, scanning it in from a computer screen.  Sometimes it is not the volume of emails that we drown in, but the density of some of the notes we get from our colleagues.

When someone writes an email to us that would be ten pages long printed out, we just close the email and say to ourselves, “I’ll read that when I have time.” 

The person sending it to you took a great deal of time to write it.  You don’t want to swim through it and it takes forever to finally deal with it.  This is not good for your relationship or the purpose of the email in the first place. 

Today, simple is the new smart – especially at work.  For some companies simplicity (in Customer and employee interactions) is a competitive advantage.  Part of simplicity is the reduction of information aimed at a target.  Fewer words = a better experience for them in communicating with you which = more future attention.  Email is far from simple when it comes to conveying complex ideas, emotions and intentions.  You would have to write dozens of paragraphs to convey the subtle nuisances of a phone or face-to-face conversation. 

Yet, many of us rely too much email to conduct conversations.  It’s like we are hiding behind our laptop letting our flying fingers do our talking.  When you find that the body of your email cannot fit into the preview pane (Outlook) or a computer screen, pick up the phone and talk to them about it.  Academic researchers to technical writers all agree that the shortest distance between two minds is a live conversation.  Nothing beats it.

NOTE:  This is usually, but not always the case.  I like to establish communication preferences with people when I first start to work with them.  How do you want me to contact you, phone or email?  Do you like short emails with more detailed stuff in phone calls or do you want it all in a note?  It is conversation worth having and will improve your business relationship.   

For more information on how simplicity is a new competitive advantage in business, read Bill Jensen’s brilliant book Simplicity

Be present for your next meeting!

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Here’s a simple piece of advice: Attend your next meeting device-free.

There was a provocative LA Times article about going lap-topless to meetings. While I like that idea, I think it doesn’t stretch nearly far enough. Don’t bring a cell phone, laptop, crack berry, anything! Bring a pen, paper and your attention. Why? Because you’ll have a more effective meeting and build relationships.

When I was conducting surveys in researching The Likeability Factor, I learned that the #2 reason your coworkers or customers might find you dishonest is your lack of presence during meetings. Your constant attention diversion to your cell, email pager or laptop sends a message to everyone that you are not with them, and don’t respect them enough to give your undivided attention.

This rule (no phones, laptops or email pagers in the meeting) is the bonus rule at the end of my new DVD product (The Dirty Dozen Rules Of Email Etiquette).

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