Stop People From Grabbing Your Valuable Time Away – Part 1
January 21, 2016.
and meetings have become two of the biggest productivity killers in
corporate life. In this first article in a two-part series, we will
focus on the cost of bad email.
are in your office after 6 PM with the door closed. Unfortunately,
you are struggling to catch up while, at that moment, the Time
Grabbers who wasted your attention all day are at home, relaxing.
Even if happen to be the rare person who can’t stand to leave with
important work unfinished, you probably still think it’s not fair.
How did you reach this point?
earlier that day, Time Grabbers cc’d and bcc’d you on
unproductive email threads. Sometimes, you were only peripherally
involved. But most of the time you were included in order to help
achieve some unspoken political purpose.
the offenders don’t know (or don’t care to know) is the amount of
time it takes others to process their messages. It only takes a few
of these emails bouncing from one department to another to decimate
an hour of your best time. It’s the reason you are still there
after hours and why you may be one of the 74% of workers who report
that they are more productive outside the office.
can this problem be overcome?
challenge is that Time Grabbers are unaware of the social chaos they
are causing, having never received factual, quality, feedback. While
it’s true “they know not what they do,” they shouldn’t be
forgiven too readily. Instead, here is an idea for a software app
that would help everyone connect the cause (ineffective email) with
its effect (wasted time/costs).
companies that share the same email system, an “Email Budget
Allocator” is a programme that could be used to make a difference.
As a plug-in designed for use inside your current system, (such as
Outlook) it would automatically display the cost of an email even as
you are drafting it. How would this be calculated?
easy. The app would compute the cost by taking into account the
amount of words, plus the number and level of the recipients.
Furthermore, this sum could be modified by a programme like
Hemingway, which instantly reports the complexity of an article. For
example, this column registers at a reading level of “Grade 9.”
that would be just the beginning. To help change actual behaviour,
you and your colleagues would receive an internal email budget
depending on your respective roles. Each message you send would debit
your budget, much in the same way that a prepaid call debits a mobile
phone’s credit. At the end of the quarter, your manager would
review your expenditure and together you’d make the necessary
final feature I can imagine would be a private feedback mechanism for
individual messages. Once an email is sent, the system would take
note of the number of times it is deleted without being read. Also, a
recipient would be able to anonymously indicate when an email is a
waste of time by forwarding it to a special address. There, the
programme would aggregate all wasted email, compute the total cost,
and further debit the sender’s account.
app might work because it brings a hidden, pernicious cost out in the
open. By contrast, we are acutely aware of our expenditure on
cell-phone calls because each one reduces our hard-earned credit.
While this system does not involve any loss of dollars and cents, it
would raise the profile of wasted attention. As it is, the average
professional spends 1-2 hours per day on email; an ever-increasing
number. Even then, most companies don’t offer any training on email
productivity, resulting in not only lost time but frayed nerves.
here’s the good news. You don’t need to wait for this app to be
invented to use these ideas in your organization.
the most part, your colleagues have no idea of the cost related to
clicking the <SEND> button. You can remedy this by actually
determining a dollar value and sharing it widely. Compute the time it
takes people to process email of different kinds, depending on their
level in the hierarchy. Use estimates to teach them how much the
average email costs the organization. For the first time, Time
Grabbers could understand the impact of their behaviour on other
people. Their behavioural changes, according to my calculations,
would more than pay for the price of the training.
organizations are far too willing to let their employees work long
hours for reasons they can control. Cutting the expense of wasted
email could free them from having to do unnecessary work that keeps
them from their families.
Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote
speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free summary of
links to his past articles, send email to email@example.com
Image Burgoyne Middle School, Bedfordshire, UK.