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Workplace Strategies From E-mail to Multitasking

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By Liz Reyer

RISMEDIA, Nov. 27, 2008-(MCT)-Good ideas can come from everywhere. Here are some tips about managing e-mail and comments concerning several earlier columns:

Managing E-mail

Many readers have useful strategies for managing e-mail. One cleans out her in box completely once a day, forwarding some e-mails to online “to-do” lists for future attention.

“The idea is that you manage what you can manage quickly (two minutes or less) when you first open e-mail, then you forward other e-mails to the day you want to work on their content or request,” she said. More information about this approach is available at www.gootodo.com, or in Mark Hurst’s book, “Bit Literacy.”

Another reader, who receives about 300 e-mails a week from many sources, organizes contacts by company or organization and the first names of the people.

“This system keeps me organized by where the e-mail is coming from, followed by what department, and finally by subject or person who sent it.”

Finally, one reader suggests “a ‘Golden Rule’ for e-mail: Send unto others what you would have them send unto you. Don’t ‘reply to everyone’ unless everyone needs to see your reply. Don’t forward jokes to everyone in your address book. Be civil, but also be as brief as possible. And please proof(read) your e-mail before sending it!”

Returning to Work

A reader noted that cover letters are not optional if mailing a resume. Good point. There are times, especially with online applications, when cover letters aren’t an option, but if you can include one, you should.

As a number of people have pointed out, providing context for employment gaps is harder with automated resume systems. As one said, “You have little opportunity to present yourself, you just have to fit in their little boxes.”

The emergence of online systems presents new challenges to applicants. When applying for jobs online, make sure that you carefully plan your response in each section. Then, follow up with mail or phone contacts if possible, and bring hard copies of your resume when you interview.


Gaining input from her boss worked well for one reader. She made lists of her assignments, and when they were overwhelming, took them to her boss for his input about priorities.

“If there was a time crunch, we could reallocate assignments,” she said. “He knew better what was going on and the amount of work. It reduced stress on me, because I wasn’t trying to do all of them all at once and managed my workload better.”

Clarifying Expectations

The column about clarifying expectations drew this question: “Many colleagues just don’t understand that time spent planning upfront saves time down the road by avoiding mistakes and misunderstandings. How do you encourage people to see the value in taking time upfront?”

As this reader noted, many companies reward “firefighting”; the challenge is to slow down and value planning. Changing this requires changes in the culture as a whole. Each person can help by asking questions upfront, thinking about “what ifs” and supporting others who are trying to take a longer view. More about this in a future column.

The last word comes from a reader who observes: “If you’re not committed to your boss’ success, you won’t be around very long. That’s the way the world works.”

Be committed to your boss’ success and your colleagues’ success-it’ll lead to success for you, too.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

© 2008, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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