Randy Dean's Timely Tips

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Timely Tips March 2009 -- A Forum on "Kitchen Sink" E-mails

Managing the "Kitchen Sink" E-mailer

I need your advice. I've run into this issue a few times, and I see pros and cons on both sides of it.

How many of you have ever received what I like to call a "Kitchen Sink" e-mail? This is an e-mail where the sender, in one single e-mail communication, invites you to 2 meetings, addresses 3-5 different projects, inserts at least 5-10 different task items, and asks 10-20 different questions about all of the above (with varying priorities and urgencies throughout!)

I know what the sender is trying to do -- be efficient and not overwhelm you with too many e-mails. But on the other side, I find that when I receive one of these e-mails, I have to read it multiple times to figure out all of the action items, questions, and projects being handled.

Even with the beautiful capability in MS Outlook to convert an e-mail into a task (or multiple tasks/calendar items, etc.) with "drag and drop", I find these "kitchen sink" e-mails brutal and inefficient. Do you agree?

I am trying to formulate a recommendation here, and I believe my recommendation is that, when possible, e-mails should stay on a single topic/project. All events and tasks within that e-mail should refer to that same single project, so there is cohesiveness and clarity. And priorities and deadlines should be clearly stated. And if the e-mail gets too long and unruly even on a single project, an impromptu phone call or "stop by" might be appropriate.

Once an e-mail starts to cover multiple projects and/or unrelated tasks, meetings, etc., I think these should be broken into multiple smaller project-specific e-mails. That way, you can more clearly identify individual tasks/deliverables requiring your action for each individual project or meeting. You can also better identify priorities and take appropriate actions accordingly. And, it makes filing those messages you want to keep for retention much easier -- you don't have to file copies of the same message in six different folders!

Do you agree? Am I missing something here? I'd like to hear from you. I'll post the best responses pro and con on my blog site at http://www.timely-tips.blogspot.com (this is a great place to get the backup issues of Timely Tips, plus I've also linked it to my Twitter feed, so you can get my microblogging tips whenever!) Let me know if you'd like me to use your name or keep you anonymous when you reply -- send your comments to timelyman@gmail.com, or just reply to this message.

YES, I'm now on Twitter!

Can't get enough of me in your monthly Timely Tips and other special announcements? Add me to your Twitter list of people to follow: http://twitter.com/timelyman

Don't forget I'm also on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Plaxo Pulse too, so if you frequently use any of those sites add me there too! I will be posting new news items first and foremost on Twitter, including new programs, products, podcasts, and more. Plus, if I stumble across a really cool and quick time saving tip, I'll post it there too!

Looking forward to "tweeting" with you.


How could I not close with an update on the Taming E-mail paperback -- the printer has provided us a proof and I will be reviewing the proof over the weekend. Then, it is ON TO PRINT! I'm hoping to have copies in hand by the end of this month -- obviously more news on that soon. Hope you are staying busy too (but not too busy!) Get out and enjoy the coming of Spring (the daffodils are pushing through the soil here in Michigan today!!!)

Until next time, Stay Timely!


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