Holiday ended, mailbox is overloaded. Now what? 5 tips to handle it

3 min read

There is big chance when you are reading this that you either are still on holiday, or that your holiday has just ended. Most likely, if you a decent amount of colleagues, you will find a couple of emails (or more) in your inbox. Though what to do about this small deluge of email, next to other work you also have to pick up after the holidays. So how to handle it?

The Daimler method

Just make sure it doesn’t arrive in your mailbox at all. Of course this could be a very German thing, however it does make sense. Why would you go to your old newspapers of two weeks? Why would we than think that we should go to through old emails?

Email bankruptcy

Another well-known aspect if ‘handling’ your email is to declare email bankruptcy. Which basically is: send an email to everybody you got an email from and tell them that you have to many emails to follow-up on and that their email(s) will be deleted. If they want you to follow-up on their emails they have to resend their emails to you.

Working the weekends

If you have FOMO or if you think deleting everything is not polite and very drastic of course you could start working on your email in the weekend just before your first workday. It will give you an extra day to catchup, and most likely an immediate longing for your holiday again…

Filing and sorting

Of course you can do something less drastic than deleting everything. You can also start by grouping emails by conversations or sorting their by subject and start working from there. Archive the long discussions thread that don’t need action from you, move the emails to an action folder that require further actions. Doing this shouldn’t take you too long (of course depending on the number of emails you received) and should give you a quick insight on what your real workload is.

Email is not your work, nor is it an assignment

Whatever your method might be, keep in mind that email is just a means for communication (or it ought to be). An email is not a task that you have to do, it is a message on something and it is up to you to define what the action should be.

So feel free to ignore the messages left during the holidays, there is nothing wrong with that. Most likely 2 or 3 week old messages are literally history anyway. Of course you can go through all of them in your weekend, or during work hours, that is up to you. However as many things: you don’t have to do it to do your job well. You can be more effective by giving all your direct colleagues a quick call to catch up (or have a lunch together).

Email doesn’t have to be done, everything that has be done is defined by you, not by other people dumping a message in your inbox.

 

How to Tell the Story about your Story for more Authenticity

2 min read

Products need to have a soul today, they need to have a story. Otherwise these products are just commodities. Easy to reproduce, to fake and low in value. The story is the thing that sets them apart, though what is often more important is the story on the story itself.

Thin line between a story and a lie

Everybody can tell a story, however some stories end up to be lies, instead of being authentic stories. Therefore it is sometimes more important to share the story about your story (this could become an Inception like blog post) that proves the authenticity of your story.

How Bentley does it

Of course Bentley creates stories about their new cars (see their ad at the end of this article, but please read the other paragraphs first). However this small commercial is not about their car, it is about the thoughts that have been put into the design with small quotes such as:

  • The car interior is a living space
  • You have to be able to adapt to the mood of the person
  • Design can be achieved by smells and touches
  • Can we liberate the user from carrying technology

All in all it is about making a brilliant experience that showcases that you can use your technology in their technology in the most convenient way possible.

Bentley’s story behind the story

In the last-minute of the clip they show how this complete commercial was recorded with an iPhone5S and an iPad air and the commercial was edited using the iPad on the backseat of the Bentley. If they can shoot a complete commercial using the stuff you normally have in your pockets / suitcase, edit in the Bentley, they show that basically everything you want to do is possible with this car. Just bring your own technology, sit on the backseat and relax.

Some stories work just better when you lift the curtain a little, since it shows what really happens. Bentley shows elegance, not just in telling their story, but in showing how their story is being told.

 

 

How to Super Charge Yourself During the Summer Holidays

3 min read

Holidays are nearing (or for some of you holidays is already there). I wanted to share with you how you could make sure you are super charged after your holidays. Or maybe I should nuance this already a bit, let me share with you how I make sure I am super charged after my holidays and how this could work for you:

Do Something You Actually Love

First all of make sure you are always doing something you want to do more often. Even though my work is quite flexible, I cannot play soccer with my son full time during workdays. So my holidays will be all about playing soccer with him and doing all other sorts of fun things with my family such as visiting places, having a wonderful meal and enjoy that we can spend a few weeks together without interruption from the outside world.

Stop outside interruptions

You don’t want to be distracted during your holidays. Therefore I will do exactly the same thing as last year: remove corporate email from phone for a weeks. Also I will disable most notifications on my phone. When I am on holiday I want to be on holiday, I don’t want to spent time on my phone doing work related items or be distracted by its notifications. Really disconnect. Every year I am considering to buy a feature phone just for the holidays, however I guess I am not brave enough yet to really take that step.

Get inspired

Holidays are for me opportunities of catching up on books I want to read and to get inspired. Some of these topics are work related, however given that I am very lucky that my work is based on my passion, I don’t see these books as work. The books I will be reading are:

Learn something new

Another book I am reading is about Swift, the new programming language from Apple. I like to learn new stuff, and the holidays is great, since most likely I have got a couple of hours to spare to learn a new skill. It is not the top priority, though I like my brains to remain active and learn something new.

Exercise

Besides keeping my brains on a certain level activity I prefer to keep my body also active and most like I will go on some long walks or will do something cycling. Doing no exercise at all would make me very restless, I need to feel the burn in my muscles every few days. This is what works for me: being with the people I love, doing things I like, without being interrupted by things I don’t want at that very moment is my ideal holidays which makes me supercharged and ready to go back work with renewed energy.

Disconnect to charge

Sometimes you have to really disconnect to charge yourself: it at least helps me to provide myself with a fresh perspective on things. How are you supercharging yourself?

 

Why You Need to Develop that Scarce Skill

4 min read

The digitisation of our world creates a huge shift in how we do our jobs. The shift is even so big that some of the jobs we do will be completely commoditized and replaced by digital solutions. For a long time we assumed that craftsman were just fine, since working with your hands is enormously specialised work that no robot could replace. However with the emergence of 3D printing, craftsman such as the goldsmith might just be years away of being replaced by a 3D printer and a designer with 3D design program. And even the 3D designer could be replaced by an algorithm.

All competences are being digitised

The skill of working with gold and turning it into something beautiful is becoming something that can be done via technology. Though when you are creating stuff, what is your next skill to learn? Is it becoming a better craftsman by improving the old, or will you become a different craftsman by adopting the new?

If you are a parcel company (or perhaps less abstract: a truck driver for such a company), you know the end is neigh for your job. Amazon considers drones for delivery, and even though that might be futuristic it should make you think: do we need people and trucks to move stuff from A to B? The answer is clear: no you don’t, drones most likely will be more efficient. So what is your next skill as a truck driver?

Though not only in the physical world this ongoing replacement is going on. The digital world is reinventing itself just as hard. Front-end development used to be a no brainer, we need front-end developers because there is no tool that could replace them. We need to rephrase that statement: there was no tool yet. A tool like Macaw is coming very close and it will be just a matter of years before the front-end developer is obsolete. What will the front end developer do, what will his speciality become in the upcoming years.

Machines outperform the strategists

And it might be clear that when you make something you can be replaced by a robot, that is the old scary picture being painted by the industrial revolution. However when your job is thinking, such as you are a strategist of some sort, your job is dead wood. What you do is draw up different strategies for your company or customers based on your insights and sometimes based on a bit of data.

However what you cannot do is comparing 400 million different scenarios with 1000 parameters to show what is most likely to work in the end. In the age of big data the machine has become the faster thinker with more capacity to create the best strategy based on data. You as an individual can only do so much, but not comparing million of scenarios in a couple of minutes. So what is the strategy for the strategist to be of added value, will he become a button pusher on the big data machine; a typical blue-collar worker?

Move where the added value shifts to

As with everything the added value shifts from time of time and skills that are scarce will be commoditized. End 19th centuries we had computers, people who did really complex mathematical computations, they got replace by… yes computers as we know it. When you watch Mad Men you’ll see typists, a skill that is completely commoditized. Work changes, however most of us never realised that this change was so constant and moved so quickly with digital.

If you want to be sure you’ll make the right next step for your next job make sure you become the expert in a scarce skill in a field that is suffering from abundance. Such as becoming a data scientist in the world of big data or a growth hacker in the world of digital. However do not consider those as the jobs you’ll keep till your pension, already think about your next step after this new role. Since also these jobs will be completely commoditized and digitized.

 

Your Company is Killed by Meetings

7 min read

Imagine: you are asked to spend two hours of your day with 7 other people in a room, doing nothing. Just be in the room listen and then leave. If you are working in a bigger than average organisation most likely this has happened to you more than just once. Even worse: it might have become a daily habit. Spending hours on end with a bunch of people talking about stuff, without actually doing anything and making any impact. That activity is an enterprise killer, which is known by the term: “the meeting”.

The inconvenient truth: most meetings are just a way to please the ego of the organiser of the meeting. The organiser needs attention and the easiest way to get your attention is to book a meeting and since most of us are just conditioned to show up, we just show up to please the organiser. The worst thing is: nobody asks questions about how you spend your time. Being in meetings all day is a perfect excuse to most managers that you are at work, while the only thing you do is the opposite: avoiding work.

A meeting is never just an hour of your time, it is an hour of every participant’s time: having a meeting with 7 people and you is a full working day of productivity that is going down the drain just by one meeting. That is just the meeting time, worst case you have to do some travelling to do to get at the meeting place, though there is at least switching time involved to get in a somewhat productive state over the meeting itself. It is more like 1.5 working day lost due to that one hour meeting.

How to overcome  being killed by meetings and become productive once again

Old habits die-hard and meetings are one of the worst habits we have developed over the years. Let’s start to break this bad habit:

Do you really need the meeting

Always ask these questions first:

  • Do you (the organiser) need to consume other people’s time?
  • Do you (the participants) need to attend this meeting?
  • What value will this meeting bring to its participants?
  • Is there an other way to solve the issue besides scheduling a meeting?

Know the goal of the meeting

Is the meeting for information sharing? Cancel it. Meetings are either for problem solving or for decision-making, nothing more. If you want to share information with a group, just make sure you have an enterprise social network solution available in which you can share the information (or request to share information) with the group. This is by far more efficient than stealing everybody’s time and put them in a single space. If there is no goal mentioned for the meeting, always cancel it, poorly prepared meetings are timekillers.

Don’t accept default durations of meetings

Why should a meeting be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 60 minutes? Scheduling software offers these standard durations, however do you need 30 minutes? Would 18 minutes be sufficient? Why not schedule 7 minutes if you only need 7 minutes. Plan for the time you need, create a constraint and me sure that  you finish within the scheduled time.

Only concrete things are worth having a meeting about

Abstract things don’t exist and therefore can be discussed for days on end. Only have meetings about something really concrete (a product, an issue that can be reproduced a piece of design) are worth having since you can do something with it.

If the meeting is about an issue and the issue has a location go there, not to a meeting room

Issues become more tangible if you experience them, not when they are conveyed in words on a Powerpoint slide. Meeting rooms are just isolated places from reality, nothing really happens there besides meetings. If you can go elsewhere which has a better connection to the subject of the meeting, go there.

No agenda, is no meeting

If there is no agenda, there is no structure, no preparation and absolutely no value. If people appreciate your appearance and added value of you in a meeting, they should appreciate your time first. Appreciation starts with preparation so that you waste as little as possible. Also preparation helps to come to the insights which people must attend (as little as possible).

Meetings end with actions, owners and deadlines

If you don’t end up with actions you’ve had a conversation, not a meeting. A meeting ends with a set of actions in which each action has an owner and a deadline. Reporting back on these actions doesn’t require a new meeting, it requires communication and an agreement on how to update others on the progress.

Actual things you could do tomorrow to reduce your meetings

Over the years I have introduced, experienced and heard about many successful solutions to adapt your workaround in an easy way to become more effective and to spend less time on meetings. They might inspire you to take action and to start changing the way you work right now.

Meeting credits

The issue with meetings is that everybody can schedule them, it isn’t a scarce resource. Well your time is scarce, though when it is managed by somebody else it is not perceived as scarce. To create a better understanding on what you are wasting by scheduling meetings make time a really scarce resource. You can do so by creating meeting credits. One meeting credit is one hour of one person’s time. So if you want to schedule your weekly look-at-me meeting with 10 people it will cost you 10 credits. By limiting the credits you force people to think critically about meetings in general and specifically in who should be attending the meeting and who not, since if you invite too many people or organise too many meetings you’ll be out of credits and you won’t be able to organise yet another meeting.

The standup meeting with a twist

Stand up meetings are supposed to be short meetings, however since some people improved standing into an art form they can go on for hours. There is a simple change you can apply I heard of: ask all the participants to drink a big glass of water before the meeting starts. As soon as the first person has to go to the bathroom the meeting has finished. Drinking water is healthy and not having meetings for hours is also healthy, so why not combine both?

Record and repeat

One alternative I just heard from my friend Björn de Visser was to record and repeat. He is always thinking when he has to do a meeting with a repeatable topic: “Can I make a Webinar out of it”. Indeed, why would you do a meeting more than once (or repeat parts of the meeting) even though the audience is different. That is just poor time management from your own side. Focus on the new things in a meeting, everything that could be repeated could be used in the preparation of the meeting or to consume it afterwards, this way you can have a really focused meeting on the things that really matter.

Socialize

Just talk with each other more often. There is the Allen curve that shows that the more we are apart, the less we communicate. However it is not when we have a meeting that we communicate more with each other, we talk to each other, however that doesn’t imply that there is real communication. Social platforms are a great way to keep in touch with each other and to overcome the Allen curve and to keep the communications going. Meeting can then be used to make decisions, instead of just catching up.

In the end

It is about you managing your time, not the time of others by scheduling meeting in their calendars. That goes of course both ways, others shouldn’t be managing your time by scheduling meetings in your calendar.