Slaying the E-Mail Monster

Book Review: Slaying the E-mail Monster by Lynn Coffman & Michael Valentine

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership, Book Reviews

There is much said about productivity improvement these days. Some say that we are going through a false sense of productivity improvement because workers are afraid to not work extra hard when they observe their colleagues being let go, and friends who have been out of work for more than a year. So they knuckle down and do all that extra work at home, long hours at the office and are on 24/7/365 due to their smart phone connectivity.

Some of us (myself included) have been predicting a real challenge in keeping our best talent as things turn around. We’ve burned them out, taken advantage of them and been oblivious to their needs as we single mindedly focused on survival in this horrid economy. So I’ve been asking “what are you demanding that your employees STOP doing? What are you doing to find out what inspires and enrolls them in the organization’s vision? What are you doing to eliminate the use of money as a so called motivator (it isn’t)?”

Well, among the many things we can do is help our employees understand how to Slay the E-mail Monster. Which brings me to Lynn Coffman and Michael Valentine who have written a marvelous short book on how to manage e-mail and files.

I’ve been using paper files, technology, computers, e-mail and electronic files since the early seventies (okay, if I count engineering school computer lab since 1966 – boy does that date me!). I have learned a lot of different ways to improve my own productivity and I still learned a few new things going through this book. It is easy to read, laid out in a logical manner and has some solid concepts to follow.

The book is broken down into six parts: (although there is a typo and “six” is skipped in favor of seven in the copy I have for some reason)

  1. E-mail
  2. Groupware Power Trio
  3. Review
  4. Documents
  5. Meetings
  6. PDAs

I especially like the authors’ idea for organizing e-mail in folders that are “Action,” “Follow-up” and “Reading.” Then in addition we are advised to consider a set of folders with the acronym “WARP” for Work, Admin, Reference and personal. The goal is to make sure you do not spend more than 2 minutes on any e-mail in your inbox and to make sure your inbox is empty each time you go into it. If you can respond within two minutes, then respond. If not, then the e-mail is dragged to the appropriate folder.

The reader is admonished to make sure they do not become a slave of the technology and use it to its full potential.Set aside time to manage e-mail. Perhaps three or four times a day max. Then do not let e-mail interrupt you – don’t look at it, turn off all alarms and focus on your other tasks. I would have added a couple of more tips when it comes to e-mail and electronic files. I have set my e-mail client so it only polls for e-mail every two hours AND I’ve shut off all visual and audio alerts. I keep my PDA alerts off as well (no vibrations or “pings” when messages are received). And for files I’ve found an excellent program that indexes all my documents including e-mails and indexes within the documents not just the file name (including inside pdf files that aren’t images). This allows me to use many fewer folders and not worry quite so much about a descriptive file name that I won’t remember two days from now anyway.

I’m sure that each person reading this book will find many suggestions that they can use to improve their lives and enhance their productivity. I recommend this book to all who want to make life a bit easier. Employers, consider getting a copy for your employees.

Click here to see the book on Amazon.