For as long as I’ve been working, email has been an ever-present communications tool, loved and hated, misunderstood and abused, carrier of unnecessary work.
And for as much discussion has been poured into how to better manage and/or reduce or eliminate email, scant few organizations have been able to make much headway on this front. Not that it’s impossible. There are alternative tools available that could be used to reduce email. However, these tools require a cultural shift along with guidelines on usage.
This is my vision for how a company could add a single additional type of communications tool to their arsenal to not only cut down on email traffic, but improve overall communications as well.
The Core Problem
Before we get to that, we must define what the core problem of electronic communication is, what I am deeming the ‘immediacy requirement’. The immediacy requirement is dictated, but not explained, by the sender of the communique, who inexplicably expects the recipient to understand that requirement and respond accordingly.
I just started reading Cal Newport’s book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You“, and it reminded me of the 10,000 hour rule that Malcolm Gladwell talked about in his book “Outliers“.
So then I wondered how ‘good’ I could become in some new or existing skill in 1 year, did the simple math and was somewhat dejected to see that even spending 3 hours every single day for a year barely gets you over the 1,000 hour mark. Even working full-time and a half (60 hours a week), only gets you to about 3000 hours in a year.
HTML5 lets you do some awesome sauce things, like this one-line URL creates a lightweight editor in your browser window, as explained by Jose Aguinaga. BTW, the gold in this is not just the article, but the contributions in the comments.
And if that’s too much work, check out ZenPen – web-based text editor, that lets you save and share too.
After reading enough about how sitting all day long will kill you that much faster, with or without exercise, I decided to make the switch to a standing desk at home.
A quick search on Amazon showed me that the standing desks were 2 things: pricey and didn’t have a lot of surface real estate. On the bright side, there were many models with adjustable heights.
I decided instead to build one myself with inspiration from around the Web. The first one I saw was Colin Nederkoorn’s Standesk 2200 which he built with about $22 of parts from Ikea. However, it’s only a retrofit for an existing desk, and I wanted a fully standing desk.
I love Gmail. It took a while before I got used to the idea of labels (vs folders), but now I’d much rather use Gmail vs say Outlook. The major keyboard shortcuts are now second-nature to me and I guess I can probably process email twice as fast as the traditional email client.
Now, what about backups? Well Google has that covered you say. Not so fast. What happens if someone hijacks your account (psst… turn on two-factor authentication
. Now!) or worse, Google decides to ban you and suspend your account? The 2nd possibility sounds remote, but it does happen, and you should protect against that possibility too. If you’ve never downloaded copies of your email via POP or IMAP, then you should really get on that ASAP.
I currently use Mozilla Thunderbird to pull down a copy of my mail (via IMAP), and it’s useful for performing specific searches that aren’t quite as easy in Gmail (yet?). And I’ve found a way to upload mail (also via IMAP) but it’s a bit of a pain. I wanted to find a more ‘bare metal’ way to perform a backup. Continue reading
If you do a lot of writing and/or emailing and/or online chatting, one way to be more effecient and save yourself some time is to type faster. If you’d like to find out what your typing speed in just over a minute, head over to Fast Fingers and take their typing test. Here’s a screen shot of my test score. Just imagine, if you write 2000 words per day and you improved your score from say 60 to 70 words per minute (wpm), then you would save yourself about 5 minutes, but more importantly probably improve your accuracy and save yourself a fair amount of frustration in the process.
I’ve independently speculated that jobs should be about results and not just about passing time sitting at a desk or in a factory. Again, (seemingly) random surfing has turned up another gem. My idea is not unique; in fact it’s a thing – Results-Oriented Work Environment (ROWE).
Created by a couple of former HR staffers, Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, ROWE is a very real concept in use by actual companies (like Best Buy). They even have a book (pictured) and a Wikipedia entry.
How about that? I’m rooting for them and for ROWE.