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Posts & articles that have helped thousands build performance through pragmatic leadership.

Is There An Art to Email Management?

Tim Ferris in his book 4-Hour Work-Week admits that email was strangling his social life. In order to take control of his life he designed a very unique breed of email management. He created detailed auto-replies that instantly supplied people who wrote him a set of instructions, numbers, and helpful links.

He gave every curious customer and confused employee a list of resources so they could figure out their problems for themselves.

After months of trial and error Ferris’ auto-reply system along with the help of a virtual assistant based in India, gave him enough free time to practice tango (and other interesting hobbies).

Yes, I said virtual assistant based in India. You can virtual assistants on sites like Elance or Amazon’s Mechanical Turk at very reasonable rates.

The moral of Ferris’ story is simple. Get rid of email and other work distractions and soon you’ll be jet-setting around the globe while learning fascinating sports and enjoying different modes of entertainment.

Ferris’ email management system has the whiff of high art because, if practiced perfectly, it can guarantee that you will never have to touch a computer ever again.

But, realistically speaking–it’s too complicated,  mechanical, and detached for the common person in a common job.

Than we have the other school of email management.

The pragmatic email school–founded by LifeHacker and its disciples–suggest you employ a set of helpful tricks, tips, and corner-cutting strategies to bring your inbox to their holy number,  ‘0’.

Tips include: ‘prioritize your email, now!’, ‘craft effective messages, or else!’, and ‘use Gmail filters–they work!’

The list, repeated on blogs, in books, and by productivity gurus, continues in the same vain–trudging happily into murkier territory.

While the tricks are helpful they are often unrealistic, (never change your email address), or impractical (use a Gmail account). The pointers are helpful, but hardly applicable to people who switch jobs or are stuck in offices that block Gmail.

Ferris and the email pragmatics make great points–but ultimately there is no clear way, no path, no zen, and certainly no art to email management. At least not yet.

However, both email management styles share a common denominator–they are united by a golden thread. In one way or another they both stress writing succinct, clear, informative replies.

You can’t expect to have a clean inbox if you write and rapidly send messages filled with incomplete sentences, contradictory thoughts, and confusing commandments. If you do–you must expect and can’t begrudge emails with subject lines that beg for another reply: “Can you please clarify, ASAP.”

Photo Credit: Sassy Radish



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