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Cut Through Clutter, Get To The Point With Shortcuts

Apr 17, 2015, 01:38 PM ET


Top execs get the facts, and fast. How to speed office correspondence:

Recognize the culprit. American workers spend an average of 90 minutes daily on email, which is more than time spent engaging in social media (84 minutes), text messaging (46 minutes) or exercising (41 minutes).

That's according to the 2015 Email Time Suck Survey by research and marketing firm Kelton.

Feel the weight. One-in-5 respondents said email steals them away from preferred activities, and 40% admitted it's the first thing on their minds when they wake up.

Such results didn't surprise Ravin Carr, chief commercial officer at GBS Enterprises. "I think it kind of validated a lot of the stuff we knew," he said. GBS, which commissioned the study, creates collaboration software for IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) platforms. "The big theme here is that email invades our personal lives in a lot of ways. Thirty-five percent think about email even while on vacation."

Find the haystack's needle. In February, GBS launched email productivity tool FewClix.

It takes on pain points like this: "All of us spend time every day looking for messages," Carr said.

The FewClix tool lets users search with multiple criteria, such as sender, subject, attachment type and date. That helps users zero in on mail, speeding the process.

Prioritize strands. Most of us read through email from top to bottom, skipping some and going back later for more.

When the pile is large, Carr suggests sorting those missives.

Someone returning from vacation might start with those from the boss or key clients.

Clean it up. FewClix eliminates folders and instead lets users save searches that categorize emails — such as all emails from a particular sender or containing a certain type of attachment.

The perk? One email can appear in several My Search results, rather than landing in a single folder.

Stay in front. Status reports or updates are probably buried in that email deluge.

Keeping track of what's going on at work can be the bane of a manager's existence, because compiling that data is time-consuming.

"It feels like busywork," said Deidre Paknad, CEO of goal achievement software firm Workboard.

Her firm designed an app to ease the process of tracking and sharing team progress. "You can't fly blind," she said. "It's the leader's job to provide clarity."

Speed the details. Workboard's apps let managers share goals, set success metrics, communicate priority tasks and get automatic status reports via dashboards. The graphic reports are viewable by selected employees up and down the organizational chain. "Everybody gets more clarity," Paknad said.

Spur action. Workboard's Hot Issues report lists tasks that are late or critical. Such speed and transparency lets managers spend more time working and less time generating reports. "It's helping them accelerate their careers," said Paknad.

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