All posts by Jane Cui

Five Ways to Improve Email Management

I used to check email a lot: almost every hour. I thought I was being productive, when in fact I was just procrastinating from doing REAL WORK. It’s fine to check email a few times a day, but when it interferes with your work, it’s not really helping you.

Here are some tips for managing your email:

Tip no. 1: Don’t open the moment they arrive

Opening mail

Let’s face it. We all have that curious urge to click on a new email the moment it appears in our inbox list. Well, you definitely need to control that itch if you don’t want to to end up using too much time opening every email that arrive. One of the simplest tricks here is to turn off the notifications coming from your email provider. Remember that even if you are not notified, that new email still stays on your inbox, marked as unread, for you to read at a more appropriate time.

You also actively restrict yourself from caving in to the urge to check your inbox for new mail every 30 minutes or so. Here, it would be a good idea to make a list of the emails that you are expecting to arrive and jot down the time you expect them to show up. This way, you open only those emails that you know you have to read immediately. All the others can then go to your “read for later” list.

Tip no. 2: Create your routine

Of course, reading an email is just half of the work that has to be done. You still have to respond to all those mail that needs to be replied to. And this is where it starts to get really complicated, as you try to read and reply to several mails all at once.

RoutineTo get yourself out of this mess, you need to come up with a routine that will help in sorting out and dealing with all the mail that arrives. For instance, use 30 minutes at the start of your work day to read through all of the mail that came into your inbox the day before. You can then allot your break time or another particular down time to respond to all the emails that need immediate replies. You should never answer emails during your most productive time of the day, as it will only make you waste precious time.

Tip no. 3: Categorize your mail and automate the process

Knowing which mail you need to spend time on and which ones can wait for later right from the start is going to cut down your email processing time significantly. Luckily, all email client software have a host of such features that you can use for this particular task.

Mail foldersOne such indispensable feature is the ability to create folders to sort out mail received from specific sources. This is particularly useful if you expect to receive large volumes of mail from specific people, such as clients or co-workers. Instead of the jumbled mess in your inbox, you get to see only the folders and check out which ones have new content.

Regularly cleaning your mail lists will ensure that these won’t end up cluttered in the long run. In case you have senders that you don’t expect to receive any message from any time soon, you can remove the dedicated folder for them. You might also want to unsubscribe to newsletters that you don’t regularly read, to free your folders list.

Tip no. 4: Make effective use of mobile

A few years back, all mail processing was done solely in front of computers. Nowadays, even the simplest smartphone has at least some basic email capabilities. But the downside to having email right on your phone is that you have access to it 24/7. Don’t get addicted to checking your email!

Mobile emailOne of the best things about using mobile is that you can do it anytime and anywhere, giving you more time whenever you work in front of your computer. You can delegate particular email management tasks here, such as deleting messages that you don’t need anymore and sending out quick replies. You can also use your mobile device to read through the mail that have arrived in the morning, instead of doing that at the start of your work session.

Tip no. 5: Receive less by sending less

Pile of mailThis might seem an odd advice, but reducing the amount of email that you send out will also greatly reduce the number you receive. Here, the trick is to remove all conversations that can be handled by other means aside from your email. For instance, employee communications within the same department can be done on a more physical means, instead of running a continuous thread through email. The tr5aditional cork board on the wall is still a good means to do that.

You also particularly should take conversations on a delicate matter off your email threads. Instead, it would be best for you to talk to the person on a face to face basis. Not only will you free your inbox of too many replies, you can also better handle the situation since you are right in front of each other.

These are just some of the tips ways to improve your email management. There are still more strategies that you can learn along the way, and these will help improve it further.


5 Tips to Beat Procrastination

Okay, let’s face it.

Almost all of us procrastinate in one way or another. Whether it is at work, at school, or even at home, we will find ways to delay work for another time. And even when we try to change our habits, we still end up putting off the important things for “later”, “tomorrow”, or “another day”.

It’s pretty difficult to get rid of procrastination completely. We are human and we shouldn’t feel bad if we occasionally slack off. But there are ways to help you overcome procrastination when you really need to. Here are some tips that will help you change your ways.

Tip no. 1: Admit that you are procrastinating

Many people would try and reason and come out with explanations as to why they are  procrastinating. When asked why they are not working on a project while the deadline is still a long way off, some would reason out that they work best under pressure.

But do they? In reality, it is very hard to focus on your work as you constantly have to keep track of the time left before your deadline. You also become very prone to mistakes that you can’t correct simply because you are out of time.

So it is high time that you stop making up reasons and tell yourself that you are indeed procrastinating. You also need to take time and ask yourself why you are delaying work in the first place. Chances are, you will find through your own honest answers that many of the reasons are actually petty and avoidable.

Don’t beat up yourself just because you are procrastinating. It’s better spending time to do your task than making yourself feel bad about not doing it.

Tip no. 2: Learn the 2-minute rule

The 2 minute rule is  a simple strategy devised by entrepreneur and travel photographer James Clear to get you to start steering away from procrastination. This strategy has two simple parts that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.

Part 1: If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now

Part 2: if it you start a new habit, then it should take you less than two minutes to do so

The idea here is very simple: many of the small tasks that we tend to put off in favor of doing other larger tasks can be accomplished in as little as two minutes. So, instead of delaying, you can gain more time to do the larger tasks by taking care of the smaller ones first. Also, you will find that these small tasks are all that are needed to actually get you started on a habit that you have been meaning to adopt.

So go do the small task that you’ve been meaning to do: go floss your teeth, put your laundry in the washing machine, and respond to that email from your boss. It will only take 2 minutes of your time.

Tip no. 3: Create a new work environment

As always, work environment plays a large role in your motivation to work. Your desk might be so cluttered with various things that you find it difficult to find something that you need quickly. Or it might be full of little things that take your attention away from what you are doing.

If that is the case, then it is time for you to de-clutter the desk and remove everything that is not related to your work. Keep only the essential objects, such as your computer, a pen, and some pieces of paper.

Of course, it would be too harsh if you don’t have something to play and relieve work stress with, but make sure that you only have one toy on the desk at any given time.

Another thing that can really affect your motivation to work is the so-called pit stops. These are the things that beg for your attention every now and then and never let you go. Social media sites and the internet itself can be full of these pit stops, with constant notifications,  new messages, or articles to read.

Turn off every automatic notification that you have on your browser or cellphone. Better yet, turn these things off entirely. That way, you will be sure that there are no beeping sounds that will get your attention away from whatever you are doing.

Tip no. 4: Get someone to remind you of what you need to do

This tip might seem odd, especially for those who go “I don’t need to be reminded cause I will do it” folks. However, that is where the problem often lies. You lose track of your tasks because you are the only one reminding yourself. With another person telling you of the work at hand, you will be compelled to listen.

Of course, you do need to make sure that the other person has a reason to help you out. So you should remind each other of your tasks. This way, you and the other person will have a reason to keep track of schedules that have to be met.

You can also look for people who have procrastination under control and ask them how they did it. You will be surprised to find out many simple solutions that they implemented, from which you can learn a thing or two. Hang out with them every now and then so that you can pick up their habits.

Tip no. 5: Reassess and go

One reason that might cause you to put off tasks is that you simply don’t want to do them anymore. It would be either that these don’t fit your goals or you have outgrown those original goals. So better stop for a moment and think about whether or not you want to continue with what you are doing and where you want to go next. This “off time” will also be helpful in planning out your next course of action.

Of course, if you do find that you are still interested in the work that you are supposed to be doing, then there should be no reason for you to put it off. Just go for it. And you really don’t have to lay out an elaborate plan of action. A single step is all that is needed for you to do whatever tasks are on hand.

Just do it. If your task is big and intimidating, break it into small pieces. If your task is repetitive and boring, have someone help you out.

Make sure you know that the things you need to do are aligned with your goals. If you want to write a novel, go write 5 paragraphs. If you are learning to cods, go read that Java tutorial. If you are trying to lose weight, go out the door and start jogging.

You can do it.