I don't often write blog posts that claim to be life-changing, but this post really is an exception. Let me start with a story about the "Wiley Old Fox"...well Dr Fox actually.
So about 6 years ago I heard an incredible talk from a very eloquent and charming keynote speaker by the name....yes you guessed it.....Dr Fox. He presented at the MIcrosoft Ignite conference in Australia and he was very exceptionally entertaining. Through his elegant story-telling, he put me onto the idea that we should not check our emails first thing in the morning. Why....because it's makes us unproductive and is a counterpoint to everything agile. I can see the skeptical look in your eyes...so let me explain further.
Tip of the Week:
Reduce the time you spend checking your email....
So we all spend probably too much time checking out email. It's often mis-used and it can lead to hours and hours of reading and responding, that often does not lead to huge productivity gains. I set about putting together some rules, to help fix this up. These rules have stuck with me ever since.
I first implemented these rules around 4 years ago when I was working as a Senior Principal Cloud Architect with DXC Technology. It was a very challenging senior position, reporting to the global CTO of an offering called MyWorkStyle. Ali Shadman was his name and he was a fantastic person to work with.....lots of fun!
I had some simple rules for email engagement. My role was to lead an architecture and engineering team to deploy a private cloud in Australia. Iniitally problems were aired to me via email and it all became unmanageable, and hugely stressful. So, to avoid a burn-out situation for myself, and also to ensure that we could meet the 13 month timelines to deploy 12 brand new offerings, alll fully automated with a team of around 25-30 people.... I set about putting some new rules in place for my team and my key stakeholders:
1) Is it a complex issue and/or is it highly urgent. If YES - call my mobile. If I don't answer text me with a summary of the problem.
2) Is it a YES / NO answer to a simple question. If YES - use email.
3) Else, consider using Instant Messaging, i.e. Skype for Business, or Microsoft Teams (which didn't exist 6 years ago).
This was after taking Dr Fox's advice and doing the following at the beginning of each day:
1) Read your weekly, monthly and yearly outcomes that you wish to achieve. If you haven't already, you should have these in an Outcomes Kanban.
2) Write down all the work that needs to be done for that day in a Task Kanban. If necessary schedule meetings for the next few days.
3) Then.....check your emails.
If you're not sure what a Kanban is....check out this awesome article below from the Scaled Agile Framework, known as SAFe. As an instructor I ran the Leading SAFe courses for ALC Training:
You'll find that when you think about outcomes first, and then think about your daily work, you will focus on what is important. Which should hopefuilly be the outcomes. This will then put your mind into a state where you're not being driven by emails.
Now....it's quite possible there will be some urgent items in the email that require attention. Maybe your sponsor needs someething done urgently today or there is a pressing urgent technical issue that requires some attention. Simple...add 1 task to call your sponsor, and another task to call the person who is raisinig the technical issue. That's it. You don't have to spend hours bouncing emails back and forth, trying to solve just those two problems.
What about the rest of your email......well if you're working with your stakeholders effectively, you will have influenced them to follow the first set of rules. Influencing people in a positive way, is probably another blog post....or two.
It took me a few months, but eventually my emails were down to maybe 5 or 6 a day, that were simply YES/NO questions. All email that I was cc'd in, went into folder. I also encouraged people not to CC me in stuff, as it wasn't ever going to help.
Some people think, but that may be useful one day....well if an issue comes up....there are better ways of resolving....than to point to your past emails and said "I told you so". That doesn't build positive relationships and doesn't help with solution deployment, so why do it.
Feel free to continue the conversation on:
Have an awesome day beautiful people. 😎❤
Paul Colmer is an AWS Senior Technical Trainer. Paul has an infectious passion for inspring others to learn and to applying disruptive thinking in an engaging and positive way.