March 2010

"One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There's always more than you can cope with." 

- Marshall McLuhan

One of the responses I got to my question in January about communication problems was this:

My communication problem is communication overload from emails and meetings. Do most people receive between 50 to 100 emails daily and spend two - three hours in meetings daily? I'm curious to know how people deal with the communication overload.

Finding solutions to our overwhelmingly busy lives is an almost insurmountable task. Perhaps the first step is to borrow from the 12 step programs: "We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable."

Admitting we have a problem is always the first step. Past that acknowledgement, here are some tips.

Don't let it interrupt you
Set a time for email. Try to limit yourself to two or three times a day and limit the amount of time you spend reading and responding. Too often our attention is distracted when we are notified of a new message. Set up reminders in your calendar to remind you to check your email and turn off the new message notification.

Process the messages
Go through your inbox and do one of the following to each message:
  • Delete it.
  • Respond to it or take other action (like adding an event to your calendar), then delete it. If you find yourself responding with the same information to several messages, create a template and save it to be used the next time someone asks for the same information.
  • Forward it if you are delegating responsibility, then delete it. You'll have a copy of it in the sent message folder.
  • File it.
If you are going to file messages, set up folders that work for you and drop the messages into them.  Decide ahead of time which folders have priority. Make sure you check through those. For instance, emails from your clients, customers, or members may take priority. Emails from your boss might be next. Regulatory or legal correspondence might be next on the list. Schedule a time each day to glance through the highest priority folders.

You might add one for newsletters and other non-emergency information you want to read later. Be honest with yourself about this, though. If you know you won't go back and read it later, delete it now.

Try to touch each item only once, except for those messages that you file.

Dealing with meetings
As for the meetings, if you are attending, insist on an agenda ahead of time. If you are running the meeting, create and distribute one to the attendees in advance so everyone will have the opportunity to be prepared.  If possible, handle issues by email or phone conferences rather than in face-to-face meetings. If you find yourself sitting in a meeting where nothing is getting accomplished, offer to head up a sub-committee to research the problem and report back at the next meeting.  

I welcome additional tips. What works for you as far as handling your email? What tricks have you found to deal with the measureless messages you receive? Do you have specific steps you take to make sure meetings are worthwhile? I'll share your ideas in a future issue of Crystallizations.

New Articles

I've started posting some of my columns and other writing at Associated Content.

I hope you'll take a few minutes and visit these:

Figuring the Odds in the Texas Governor's Race: It's All About the Hair

Nurturing Your Creative Ideas: Choose Your Friends Wisely when Being Imaginative

Five Quick Ideas for Branding Yourself as an Expert: Low-Cost Solutions for Small Business Marketing

The Problems with Multi-Tasking: What Really Happens when You Aren't Focused

Three Steps to Success: Define, Visualize, and Write Down Your Destination

Business Networking is More than Collecting Business Cards: Focus on Creating Business Relationships to Make Networking Worthwhile

Please share these with your friends and let me know if you enjoy them!

Call me for a free consultation to see if I can help you with your writing needs. Call 210-863-2250 or email crystal@crystaldarby.com to set up a time.

Crystal Communications
6000 Trone Trail
San Antonio, Texas 78238

Barbara Robinson from Air-Stream won last month's puzzle. She was the first of many of you who figured out that the bus driver was walking instead of driving.

This month, can you use only +, -, *, /  to make six 9s equal 100? There are several correct solutions.
9 9 9 9 9 9 = 100

The first correct entry will win a $25 gift certificate from
Nicavid's Bakery and Cafe.

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Don't forget!
Tuesday, March 2 is Election Day for the Democratic and Republican primaries.  If you live in Bexar County, visit here to find your polling place and a sample ballot.