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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

Tip-Of-The-Month: How to manage the e-mail overload, part 4 of many

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 @ 01:13 PM

Fearlessly facing the issues

e-mail tips tutorialsE-mail messages, especially the not-so-easy ones, seem to sit in our inbox for a while before we finally take actions on them. We may agonize about them for days and looking at them dozens of times before we finally take the necessary action. By that time, it may be too late and we may find ourselves missing important windows of opportunities or critical deadlines and therefore needing to do some damage repair. Or even if it is not late, we still feel exhausted and guilty, having spent valuable mental and emotional energy without making much progress. 

You know these messages that I am referring to. Scan your inbox right now and identify 5 to 10 of these messages and let’s get to work:

  1. If you need more information before you can handle the message (like more clarification on certain issues, or access to a report that has some relevant data), then initiate the request to get the necessary information. Put a reminder so that if you don’t get the information within the necessary timeframe, you can follow-up in a timely manner. Then move to the next message.
  2. If you need time to think through the content of the message and/or preform the related task, then set time on your calendar to do so, and then move to the next message (most important treat this time like a serious appointment that is not easily subject to change. So when the time comes, just do it!).
  3. If you need to consult with others before you can handle the message, then initiate the request to consult with the relevant people. Also, put that reminder so you can follow-up. Then move to the next message.
  4. If you have the information you need, and don’t need more time to think it through or perform a related task, and don’t need advice from others, then prompt yourself to take the action now! If you have been postponing such a message, it is likely that what is stopping you is an underlying fear of facing the issues (making a decision, saying no to people, giving information or opinions that may rock the boat, etc.). So the solution is to fearlessly face the issues and learn in the process. Below is the 5 step process that can help you do so.

Fearlessly Facing The Issues: A Five Step Approach

  • Step 1: Draft your “fearless” response (but don’t send it yet). In other words, how would you respond if you had no fear and if you were to face the issues to the best of your knowledge.
  • Step 2: Write down what you are afraid of (specific thoughts that are causing your fear), and what are the likelihood that these unfortunate events will come true (jot this down, don’t just think it), and how you would manage them if they would come true.
  • Step 3: Review your “fearless” response again and potentially refine it to minimize any associated risks. At this point you may already feel ready to face the issues and send your response. If not, go to step 4.
  • Step 4: Get feedback about your response from someone else, and preferably someone objective who is not a stakeholder in the issues. Get some objective feedback on your analysis in step 2 above.
  • Step 5: Refine your response and send it and stay tuned for more learning.

If you start fearlessly facing the e-mail issues on a daily basis (every time you go to your inbox), you are likely to dismantle these fears quickly and accelerate your e-mail process! 

Additional Resources

Topics: tip-of-the-month, time management tips, email management