Why e-mail is a waste of time

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iol scitech june 15 microsoft outlook

To welcome new users, Microsoft is financing what it believes to be the biggest marketing blitz in the history of email.

Nowhere is the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” more true, or of paramount importance than to understand the wastage occurring behind every computer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a company of one, or CEO of a multinational.

I’m not referring to fiddling around with social media. Measures can be put in place to curb that.

Let me give you an example to illustrate the problem.

While interviewing someone for an office manager position, the applicant said, “I’m superb at the computer”, and continued with all the ways over the years she has used software. Proficiency with MS Office was one of the main job requirements.

When it was my turn to describe the office manager role, in an offhand manner I mentioned something about e-mail.

“Oh, I’m just great with Outlook” she replied.

Thinking my luck couldn’t get any better with a more suitable applicant, I innocently asked, “So, tell me, how do you use Rules?”

A blank quizzical stare was her only response.

I was stunned. How could someone professing to be so good on the computer not know about Rules? In my opinion, the Rules function in e-mail programs is one of the most important items to know.

This is one simple, personal example of literally dozens of true stories I could write about. They would all point to the same fact. Almost everyone works very inefficiently with their software, from the managing director, to the executive PA to managers and down.

You’ll find what has happened is that efficiency has been impeded by six factors:

1 Expectations that staff should and could use software without any prior experience or training.

2 New young staff starting work having only experienced web based e-mail.

3 Increasing volumes of e-mail sent and received.

4 Software upgrades in the office without accompanying training.

5 The lack of books or resources available for staff to turn to.

6 IT helpdesks focus more so on systems and solving problems – not on educating users.

This problem is most when you are working in Outlook (which is still the major business e-mail software). It probably gobbles up several hours of your day and is a major pain point.

It’s where you receive work requests. Where you communicate with most. Where you get news. Where you set your appointments and meetings, and where you remind yourself to follow up.

Most people perform actions one by one by one and the way they’ve nutted a task out over time. Managers don’t know to ask staff why reports or documents that took hours or days to be created, could not have been done in a fraction of the time – if the staff member knew a few simple software functions.

The solution to the problem is helping staff to discover the diamonds of productivity waiting at their fingertips. They just need to take the time to learn if there is a better way of doing things.

This can span formal training to the informal of books, manuals or even implementing a “share a computer tip” portion to regular meetings.

Learning just four or five time saving tips can easily free up at least two working weeks a year (20 minutes a day times 240 working days a year).

I’ve taken 10 years of learning and put it into a very easy-to-read book. It’s in a problem/solution format that focuses on where you’d like to improve most; in communication, sales, workflow, response management, customer service. Imagine accomplishing this by simply making a few simple tweaks to the way you work. – New Zealand Herald

Forget typing details: Drag and Drop

Used creatively in Outlook, drag and drop can replace cut and paste and typing from scratch.

Take incoming e-mail and drag, then drop into contacts, calendar, or task folders to transform that e-mail into a new item.

An e-mail dropped into Contacts creates a new contact for the sender. Take their signature, drag and drop the information into the respective contact fields.

Even better, you can highlight text within an e-mail and drag and drop that instead of the entire e-mail.

l Debbie Mayo-Smith is author of Conquer Your E-mail Overload

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