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Back to Work: How To Avoid the Avalanche

You are back at your desk, but your mind has drifted back to that walk on the beach on a spectacular summer day. As the sun dips slowly into your sea of tranquility, you are suddenly shocked back to reality, as your office phone rings, your mobile is vibrating, and your office manager bursts in to remind you about your fall planning meeting this afternoon.

While it is a struggle for many of us to adjust to returning to a full schedule of work, our biggest “re-entry” challenge is to avoid drowning from all the messages and emails we need to review and reply to, from colleagues, clients, friends and family. With information overload at crisis proportions, it is a major hurdle for us to multitask well.

Numerous studies have shown that the impact of being constantly connected have wrested control from how we manage our day-to-day schedules, from sunup to sundown, and beyond. This year, each worker will send and receive an average of 121 email messages per day- a 15% increase over the past 3 years, according to the Radicati Group, and business email will rise another 16% by 2018. Adding to our challenges, the ubiquitous smart phone has pushed many of us beyond our limits to respond quickly and effectively, and customer expectations have been recalibrated, as a recent "social habit" survey revealed:

  • 24% expect a response within 30 minutes
  • 42% expect a response within 60 minutes
  • 57% expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours

How do we change the game and alleviate the stress of our communication avalanche? Some ideas we have found to be effective include:

  1. Prioritize Work Communication- Start with organizing your emails into categories and subcategories, and priority/follow-up folders. Resist the temptation to visit social sites during the workday. Resist the urge to respond to your Facebook friends, and check the weather forecast during down time, as it probably hasn’t changed in the last 5 minutes.

  2. Cut the Clutter- Unsubscribe to any distribution lists you have not actually read in the past in the past year. Change from a daily to weekly feed, as this could eliminate up to 20% of all of your emails. The information you wanted may no longer be relevant, and even if it is, you can save the source link as a Google Favorite.

  3. Be Where You Are- We are swimming in a sea of factoids, and constantly connected. Remember, there is a reason you are in that meeting. Focus on the now, commit to quality, and stay connected to the people you are with - when you are with them!

  4. Don't Over-Commit- Can't say no? Keep in mind taking on new projects or volunteering has consequences, regardless of your good intentions. Life is a zero sum game, and every minute spent on one task is one less than another you are already committed to.

  5. Be The Boss- Master the technology you use, and if you can't, find someone who can (even if they are your neighbor's kids!) Hire them to help set you up, and it will save you time and effort later.
  6. Set Reasonable Expectations- Is it really important to respond right away to any and every message? It's important to measure your response, and let people know you will get back to them in a reasonable time. With this approach, you can start managing expectations and become more successful in meeting deadlines, and project you are engaged and responsive.

HRG's Strategic Training Solutions offers our clients effective business communication training programs designed to reduce clutter and increase your ability to be more effective and productive. Looking for a solution to your communication and information management challenges? Contact Laura McNerney at (914) 761-7111 or

About Hospitality Resource Group

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Hospitality Resource Group, Inc. (HRG) is a group of three vertically integrated companies, with over 17 years of experience in developing innovative marketing, training and event programs for businesses, education institutions, municipalities and not for profit organizations. HRG clients benefit from our proven ability to ignite market interest, engage consumers, and educate employees on how to manage and lead their companies to build brand equity, increase sales and improve productivity.

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