Tag Archives: efficiency

Email: The time bandit

I was on the road travelling and working for the past two weeks. Sometimes sleeping on planes and working from airports, sometimes at conferences – I did five events in those two weeks involving four talks and one where I was doing the official social media coverage.

During this time, my email stacked up. If you have been waiting for me to reply to something then I apologise. Today was my first proper day in front of my desk for a couple of weeks and I have nearly 500 messages in my inbox today and about 350 of those are unread.

I probably get the same amount of email as most professionals. A few important mails, a few that can wait, and a lot of junk… whether it’s actual spam or just notifications about this or that on ebay or the social networks.

But email takes time. Each mail has to be read, even just to decide whether to delete or file it. I now hate it when companies email me press releases when they could be using a social network such as Twitter – I can see far more quickly on Twitter whether something is worth pursuing or not.

At least I don’t organise my time by email. I know of many people whose working day is dictated by what arrives in the inbox… I usually have a to-do list that has nothing to do with the arriving email.

But everywhere I have been travelling on my journey has had connectivity, so in theory I could have been checking my mails in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. But the reality is that when travelling on business, your time is packed with more important things than sitting in front of a list of emails. The day, from breakfast to dinner is usually packed with meetings or talks or other work.

But if this prioritisation of time is how I behave when travelling, then the obvious question has to be, why do I suddenly have time to deal with the deluge of email when I get back to the office or my home?

If my time is too valuable when on the road, then surely it is even more valuable when I am working hard on the things that I get paid for.

So here is a new resolution for 2012. I’m going to spend a short amount of time, maybe 15-20 minutes at the start and end of each working day, checking for important email. Anything else I don’t have time for is just going to get binned.

Will I lose anything valuable? Will I miss something vital? Or will I just reclaim wasted time and start resetting my priorities back to spending more time on what I actually get paid for?Bizarro-email-hell

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Government to slash spending

Last year we suffered a near collapse in the entire global banking system. At the time, people started questioning how the international finance business could remain in the private sector. There was a de facto takeover by the state in both the USA and UK as banks and insurance companies were bailed out by the government, which then became the owner and controller of several high-street brands.

But that seems to be all forgotten now. Everyone I talk to in the City seems to behave as if things are just the same as they were back in the boom years. Bonuses are being paid again – even when it’s really the government paying them. What happened?

While the City appears to be back to business as usual, the public sector is falling apart. All the talk in the past few weeks has been from politicians of all shades warning of how they will need to make cuts in future. Now the Chancellor is starting to brief ministers about what they need to do.

Everyone I talk to has discounted the Labour party winning the next election. Even Labour supporters have given up on their own party. Yet, I think it’s too soon to call a victory for the Tories. Cameron is not riding so high in the polls that an outright victory is clear-cut. Even though most people are fed up of the present government, the Tories are not generally seen as saviours. They don’t have the answers to this global financial meltdown and all the issues it is presenting now for the public sector since the recession started.

But, whoever wins in 2010 will have a huge problem to deal with. £175bn borrowed this year. Even trimming budgets here and there can probably only save 10% of that.

There will need to be radical cuts and changes in the nature of how government services are delivered. New ideas like the G-Cloud mooted by Lord Carter in the Digital Britain report are only the start. It’s about time we explored how a government structured on hundreds of years of processes can be re-engineered to deliver in the digital age. That won’t be easy, and not every citizen is a digital native, but this cash crisis is creating an environment where no ideas can be ignored.