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9 Rules for Emailing by Google's Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg (TIME, 9/24/14); summary + commentary by Melissa Sweat, Online Community Manager

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Thu, Oct 02, 2014 @ 04:44 PM

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Rules for handling email at work

Last week, Google Executive Chairman and past CEO Eric Schmidt and former Senior VP of Products Jonathon Rosenberg released their new book, How Google Works. In it, they give a robust, inside look at the company’s culture, from talent to innovation to how to deal with disruptions. Sharing management and business insights at both the macro and micro levels, the book offers a rare “how to” into Google’s success.

At the day-to-day micro level, Schmidt and Rosenberg have specific rules for email and how to avoid the “foreboding” email often causes. They’ve shared these in a recent TIME article, 9 Rules For Emailing From Google Exec Eric Schmidt. A few, include:

  • Respond as quickly as possible.

  • Constantly clean out your inbox.

  • Make following up easy with a label.

  • Email should be handled in “Last In First Out” (LIFO) order.


The article offers great email advice, notably on cleaning out your inbox and labeling. “Inbox zero” is possible. People-OnTheGo has a similar system of categorizing emails as “Today,” “Tomorrow,” “Waiting For” (and you can handle easy items right away). We differ about responding quickly. Do be quick and brief, but don’t have email up all the time and check it constantly. This greatly decreases focus and productivity.


How about you? Do you handle email with your own unique system? Are you struggling on a daily basis with email or distraction? Do you agree or disagree with the ways to manage email suggested here? Please share your thoughts in the section below, or tweet us @pierrekhawand.

Productivity Webinars You Might Enjoy

Topics: time management tips, productivity, information overload, email management

Disruptions: Life’s Too Short for So Much E-Mail by Nick Bilton (New York Times, 7/8/12); summary + commentary by Melissa Sweat, Online Community Manager

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Aug 20, 2012 @ 09:17 PM

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summary commentary emaildistration 8.20.12

Corporate employees send and receive about 105 emails daily. Writer Nick Bilton thinks that’s a big problem as he tries to manage his more than 6,000 monthly emails, using everything from filters to away messages to no avail (see "Disruptions," NYT). He cites a 2012 UC Irvine report stating that those who didn’t check email regularly at work were less stressed and more productive than those who checked more often. Bilton considers other forms of messaging instead, like Google Chat or Twitter, or even not responding at all.


We relate with Bilton about email frustration, but “avoidant inbox disorder” is not the solution. Our methodology at People-OnTheGo is that email is a task you schedule into your day. This enables you to focus your work effort, while saving time for collaboration (email, social media, etc.). We have a unique inbox strategy that helps you prioritize emails, daily and weekly; no more switching tasks to attend to every alert. We also agree with the UC Irvine study:  those who check email less regularly—though we would add “and more strategically”—are less stressed and more productive.


Are you frustrated and overwhelmed by email? Do you try to avoid it? Are newer forms of communication like chat and social media messaging more preferable to you? What are some email solutions that you use in the workplace?

Additional Resources

Topics: summary-plus-commentary, Gmail, Technology, time management tips, getting organized, interruptions, productivity, information overload, time on social media, managing stress, email management

Google Security: learn to hack-proof your Google Account

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Oct 12, 2011 @ 04:00 AM

Guest blog article by Steve Loosley, Tech Blogger

Do you store sensitive data in Gmail and Google Docs? If so, is your data safe? Is your account hack-proof? 

In our last post you learned the key steps to make your Gmail secure. Today, I want to show you how to check your critical Google Account settings and how to set-up 2-Step Verification.

First, let’s update your Google Account settings. As shown in the following screenshot, click your name in the upper right corner of Gmail or Google Docs, and select Account Settings in the drop-down menu.

security 5

Let’s work though each of the items on the Account Overview page, as shown in the next screenshot. 

security 6


It’s a good idea to periodically change your password. Google recommends ...

  • Pick a unique password that you haven't previously used on other sites or on Gmail. Just changing one character or number isn’t enough.
  • Don't use a dictionary word or a common word that's easily guessable.
  • Use a combination of numbers, characters, and case-sensitive letters to make your password impossible to guess.

Make sure that your password recovery options are up-to-date, so you can access your account if you forget your password, something that we all do. You can set-up your own secret question, backup email address, and SMS number. Again, make your answers guess-proof.

Authorizing applications & sites

Click edit and make sure that the authorized websites are ones that you have approved. If your Google Account has been compromised, it's possible that the bad guys have authorized their own websites. This may allow them to access your Google Account after you have changed your password.

Use 2-step verification

Two-step verification will make your Google Account 99.9% hack-proof by adding an extra layer of security.

With 2-step verification, signing in to your Google Account requires two steps:

  1. Password. First, you enter your Google Account password as normal. 
  2. Code. Next, you’ll be prompted for a time-sensitive, random 6 digit code.

Watch the following short, 3:28 Google video to learn about 2-step verification, and then we’ll set-up your account.



Setting up 2-step verification

  • On the Account overview page, click edit next to Using 2-step verification (see screenshots above).
  • A help screen will open. Click Start setup.
  • Select how you want to receive your verification codes: SMS, voice call, or on your smart phone.
  • Next, add a backup number to ensure that you can receive a verification code to sign-in even if your primary phone isn't available or working.
  • Finally, record or print your backup codes and store them in your purse or wallet.

Application-specific Passwords

After you set-up 2-step verification, some applications that access your Google Account (such as Gmail on your phone or Outlook) cannot ask for verification codes. Instead of verification codes, you'll enter application-specific passwords.

For a complete list of applications that require new, unique passwords see this this Google help article. This article also explains how to generate and enter these passwords.

To set-up application-specific passwords,

  • Click on edit next to Authorizing applications & sites on the Account Overview page (see screenshot above).  
  • Locate the Application-specific password section at the bottom of the screen. 
  • Enter a Name and click Generate password
  • Copy the password and either paste or enter it in the application.

There is no need to remember these passwords. You only need to authorize an application once.

Whew, great job! Your Google Account will be 99.9% hack-proof by using a strong password, reviewing authorized sites, and implementing 2-step verification. 

In the comments below, let me know what steps that you've taken to protect your Google Account. 

Additional Resources

Gmail Security Checklist - Google Help Document

Google Two-Step Verification - Google Help Document

Managing and Organizing Your E-mail Inbox--Using Google Apps - People-OnTheGo webinar series

Inbox Freedom - People-OnTheGo webinar series

Topics: Gmail, Technology, email management

Google Security: learn how to make your Gmail secure

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Oct 10, 2011 @ 04:00 AM

Guest blog article by Steve Loosley, Tech Blogger

Is your Gmail secure? Can you tell if someone hacks your account?

In this short series of posts, I want to help you make sure that your Google Account is secure. I want to show you how to know if someone hacks your account. 

In this post, we’ll focus on Gmail and in the next, your Google Account settings. First, I want to show you how you can tell if someone else is checking your email. 

Gmail Account Activity 

Gmail records how, where, and when your mail is checked. To check your Last account activity, look for the following at the bottom of your Gmail screen and click on Details 

describe the image

A new window will open, like the screenshot below, displaying the Access Type, Location (IP address), and Date/Time. Scan the rows. Does anything look suspicious — unauthorized concurrent sessions, unexplainable locations or times, or unknown devices?

For example, if you normally access your email from California, but the Location field shows that your account was accessed from another state or country, this is a red flag that someone else has access to your account.

Make sure that the Alert preference is set to Show an alert for unusual activity.

security 2 resized 600

Gmail Settings

Next, let’s verify your Gmail settings. Click on the cog in the upper right corner of your Gmail screen and select Mail settings from the drop-down menu, like this screenshot.

security 3

In the General tab, make sure that the Browser connection is set to Always use https. This setting protects your information from being stolen when you're signing in to Gmail on a public wireless network, like at a coffee shop or hotel. Here's a screenshot

security 4

Next, let’s examine the key settings to make sure that no one has hacked your account and hijacked your mail. Again, on the Mail settings page, click on

  • General: check your Signature, and Vacation responder
  • Accounts and Import: verify your settings under Send mail as, which includes checking your reply-to address, Check mail using POP3, and Grant access to your account.
  • Filters: Check that no filters are sending your mail to Trash, Spam, or forwarding to an unknown account. 
  • Forwarding and POP/IMAP: Make sure that your mail isn't sent to an unknown account or mail client, like happened in this summer’s Chinese Gmail scandal.

Finally, be aware of phishing scams (read about phishing in Wikipedia) that redirect you to websites that look like Gmail log-in pages, but are really rogue sites to trick you in to entering your Gmail address and password. For example, this graphic shows what the fake site looked like that tricked many users this summer.

Here are a few things to remember to avoid phishing scams.

  1. The URL for Gmail should be https://mail.google.com/... Check the top of your web browser, and if it’s anything else, use extreme caution. 
  2. Avoid clicking on a URL that is disguised in an email. Hackers disguise dubious websites by not showing the URL. So, don’t click on this, but do click on this - http://www.example.com
  3. Never send sensitive information by email. To be safe, assume that your email may be snooped.

To sum-up, if you keep close watch on your Account Activity and occasionally check your key settings, you’ll be well on your way to securing your Gmail.

In the comments below, let me know what works for you. How do you keep your Gmail secure?

Additional Resources

Gmail Security Checklist - Google Help Document

Managing and Organizing Your E-mail Inbox--Using Google Apps - People-OnTheGo webinar

Inbox Freedom - People-OnTheGo webinar 

Topics: Gmail, Technology, email management

Take control of e-mail interruptions! 3-min CBS News MoneyWatch video

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Tue, Sep 27, 2011 @ 09:43 PM

Taking Control of E mail InterruptionsIn this video session at CBS News MoneyWatch, we got to work at the whiteboard again. The topic was “taking control of e-mail interruptions.” I drew and explained how most business professionals handle e-mail today (the shocking truth!), and then demonstrated how we can significantly improve on this “bleak” picture and transform e-mail from being an ad-hoc activity that has “us” under control, to a structure task that “we” have under control.

In doing so, we take control of one of most ubiquitous and detrimental interruptions of all, and that is e-mail interruptions!

What are you waiting for? Don’t wait for the next e-mail beep, instead listen to this 3 min video and start taking action now. And don’t keep it a secret. After all, e-mail is a shared responsibility.

Additional Resources


Topics: time management tips, interruptions, email management

MG Siegler from TechCrunch quits e-mail for a month! I will show you how you can quit e-mail too (part 3)

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Fri, Aug 05, 2011 @ 04:59 PM

results curve email management

A few weeks ago I described to you how MG Siegler from TechCrunch quit e-mail and I demonstrated how you can do that too and take control of your life again. I showed you how working in bursts of focused and collaborative sessions to create e-mail free zones and e-mail dedicated zones is the answer.

managing e-mail

Then, I revisited this topic again (how you can quit e-mail part 2) and discussed the 80/20 rule, and shows you how you can quit the 80% of the low impact messages, and focus on the 20% of the high impact messages.

And here we go again! This week (part 3) I would like to suggest you quit e-mail when e-mail is not best suited for what you are trying to communicate and use the most suitable tool!

Using e-mail for what e-mail is best at

Blinded by the ease and speed of e-mail, among other factors, we tend to forget that e-mail is not the only tool for communicating. This is a list of some of the tools that can largely benefit us when used appropriately in conjunction with e-mail. What do you think these tools are ideal for and not so ideal for? Use this opportunity to jot down your answers and then compare with the answers below:

  Ideal for  Not so ideal for 
 E-mail  < jot down your answers >  < jot down your answers>
 Instant Messaging    
 Phone Calls    
 Web Conferencing    
 Virtual Worlds    
 Video Conferending    

While there is not one answer, and no right or wrong answer, when it comes to how best to utilize these tools, here are some suggested answers as a starting point:

  Ideal for  Not so ideal for 
 E-mail  Factual/Asynchronous    Emotional
 Instant Messaging  Quick exchanges  Long exchanges
 Phone Calls  Discussions  Visuals
 Web Conferencing  Document sharing  Interacting/Seeing people
 Virtual Worlds  Interacting  Simple hardware setup
 Video Conferending  Seeing people  Simple hardware setup
 In-Person  Complex/Emotional  Remote people

Let us add a few more asynchronous tools to the mix

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • SharePoint
  • Google Docs 

Blogs, wikis, Microsoft SharePoint, Google Docs, and other information and document sharing tools, can tremendously help take the load off of e-mail. One of the examples that I give in our workshops relate to how blogs for instance (in this case, we are referring to internal blogs) can help the knowledge experts within the team or organization answer important questions once instead of time after time, and make these answers accessible to everyone within the team or organization. E-mail is not the best way to leverage and share knowledge.

Let us start using e-mail for what e-mail is best at! Before you write your next e-mail, stop for a second and ask the question: Should this be an e-mail or not?

Additional Resources

Topics: interruptions, email management

MG Siegler from TechCrunch quits e-mail for a month! I will show you how you can quit e-mail too (part 2)

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sat, Jul 23, 2011 @ 05:34 AM

Last week I described to you how MG Siegler from TechCrunch quit e-mail and I demonstrated how you can do that too and take control of your life again. I examined how results change with time, and how interruptions--like e-mail interruptions, can significantly reduce our productivity. Then I showed you how working in bursts of focused and collaborative sessions to create e-mail free zones (green bar below) and e-mail dedicated zones (red bar) is the answer:

results curve email management

Today, I would like to take this "quit e-mail" concept a step further.

To do so, I would like to bring to the picture the 80/20 rule! This rule states that 80% of our results come from 20% of our effort. In other words, there are some activities that we do that are closely connected to the desired results (the 20%) while many other things that we do that are marginally connected to the desired results if at all (the 80%):

managing e-mail

The rule has many implications and applications, but for now, I would like to apply it to e-mail and propose that only 20%  of our e-mails are closely connected to the desired results while 80% are not.

So instead of quitting e-mail all together, how about we quit the 80% and focus on the 20%. I am not just referring to incoming e-mails, but I am also suggesting you start sending about 20% of the e-mails you send today. As a result:

  1. People start to send you less e-mails and their e-mails are likely to be focused on the important issues.

  2. People start to reach you using more appropriate tools instead of always e-mailing you.

  3. You spend a lot less time on e-mail and more time on important endeavors.

Additional Resources


Topics: interruptions, email management

MG Siegler from TechCrunch quits e-mail for a month! I will show you how you can quit e-mail too!

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

I Quit Modified SmallMG Siegler, from TechCrunch, tweeted and blogged recently "What if I just stop responding to e-mail?" The tweet soon became reality. MG decided to stop responding to e-mail for a whole month as an experiment. His frustration with the high volume of e-mail, and the feeling that e-mail has taken over, led to this experiment--which I believe is still in progress.

MG is not alone in his frustration! This frustration is shared by the majority of the thousands of business professionals that we work with. Our survey showed that on the average, the 1000 survey respondents spend 3.27 hours per day on e-mail. One of our workshop participants described it as "e-mail jail."

While MG's boss at TechCrunch may find that MG quitting e-mail is "interesting" and can lead to potentially great content for TechCrunch, you and I may suffer different consequences. Our bosses and clients may just fire us!

However, don't go to despair just yet! I am going to show you how you can quit e-mail too. This is like quitting e-mail for the rest of us.

You can quit e-mail too and let me show you how

Let us start by examining how our results change with time when we are working on a task. when we start to work on a task, we start to produce results, and then as we continue to work on that task, we produce more results. This continues until eventually the flow of results begins to level off and start to diminish:

Quit Email Results Curve1

What happens in reality though is that after we spend a few minutes on a task, we get interrupted, and our results go down to zero. This happens again and again so that our actual results rarely if ever reach the results curve shown above. Instead, we live in this low-productivity constant-interruption state depicted in the shaded areas below:

Quit Email Results Curve2

To remedy this situation, we need to stay focused long enough, before we switch tasks. How long is long enough? This depends on the task and it is a moment by moment decision we need to make depending on the task that we are undertaking next. If the task is strategic and important, my recommendation would be 40 minutes. Then switch and be collaborative. The results curve then looks like this:

Quit Email Results Curve3

All you have to do: Quit e-mail for 40 minutes

So if you don't have the luxury of quitting e-mail for a whole month, how about something much more attainable and sustainable, and more revolutionary in its impact on your productivity. All you have to do is quit e-mail for 40 minutes at a time, in other words creating e-mail free zones (shown in green below), and then handling e-mail right when you get into the collaboration zone, creating e-mail-dedicated zones (shown in red below).

Quit Email Results Curve4

Let us not "throw out the baby with the bath water." Let us take control by creating these e-mail free-zones and e-mail dedicated zones.

Stay tuned for more ways in which you can "quit" e-mail!

Additional Resources

results curve

PS: After reading Lynda's article about Exclamations marks, I tried to limit them in my article above, but still had more than two! I will try harder next time Lynda.

Topics: interruptions, email management

“The highest level of accomplishments are achieved when we work in bursts” from bnet.com/live

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Jun 08, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

time management tips

Sumi Das, host of the The One Live show at BNET asked me during the show:

“What advice (relating to managing interruptions) do you have for those of us who work in a deadline-driven industry, and even for people who don’t, if is not an option to only check email once every couple of hours--you may need to respond to a message immediately upon receipt, particularly if it is from your manager!”

This was my answer

“Checking e-mail once every couple of hours in today’s work environment? Not only this is not possible, but I think it may be counter-productive.

We live in a highly collaborative work environment, and we are highly interdependent, so we need to check e-mail more often and keep the issues and decisions moving along.

What I recommend is checking e-mail after each focused session.
So if my current task requires 20 minutes of focus, I stop checking e-mail during this focused time, and then the first think I do after the 20 minutes is check e-mail.

This is the message that I want everyone to hear: The highest levels of accomplishments are achieved when we work in bursts. A burst of focused effort, followed by a burst of collaborate effort, and then followed by a burst of play time to get re-energized and ready for more.

Now e-mails from managers are a whole different story. Managers need to become more aware of the impact that their e-mails have on their team and not expect immediate response. When issues are critical and require immediate response, use a different way to notify their team. Something they should discuss with their team and agree upon ahead of time.”

View the recording of the show for more tips about Accomplishing More With Less! And learn more about The Accomplishing More With Less Workbook.

Topics: social media, time management tips, interruptions, email management

How do you deal with hundreds of e-mails in your inbox right after a vacation?

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Tue, May 31, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

vacation e-mailMany people tell me that they dread coming back to work after having taken a few days off or gone on vacation because of e-mail! If you have taken advantage of the holiday weekend and took some extra days off, you may soon experience the same challenge. I experienced this previously when I found 1200 message in my inbox after a vacation, and here is how I dealt with them, applying many of the tips and techniques we teach in the Accomplishing More With Less methodology:

  • Anything that resembled spam, subscriptions, news, group messages, sports tickets offers, and the like, got deleted. These amounted to several hundred messages.
  • FYI e-mails that don’t require an action got scanned quickly and moved into the Catch-All folder. This is the folder where unimportant messages are kept and referred to only on an as needed basis.
  • Messages that can be answered quickly, got answered right then. Once answered, they got dragged into the Catch-All folder as well.
  • Messages that required further action (or thinking) got assigned the red category**. Those that are time sensitive, got also assigned a reminder with the desired dates and times.
  • Remaining messages, which are the not-so-urgent messages, got assigned the blue category** and occasionally got assigned reminders with the desired dates and times.

Suddenly, a daunting inbox got transformed into an organized list of messages with red and blue categorise, and with the appropriate reminders for those that are time sensitive. The job is not done. The next task is to set some time aside, preferably by the end of the day, to focus on the red messages and handle these in a timely manner.

To make this work, make sure you budget a couple of hours when you come back (reserve this time on your calendar before you go on vacation) to sort through your messages systematically as described above! Remember to take a break every 40 minutes and move so you stay energized and complete this task successfully.

Afraid about being off e-mail during vacations or holidays? Fear no more. 

Additional Resources

Topics: time management tips, email management