How Binary Emails Can Free Up Massive Amounts of Time
(And At The Same Time Increase The Quality of Your Team)
By TJ Oosterkamp
I hate email. Although, I do love the fact that it enables me to communicate efficiently, other than that I seriously hate processing emails. So when I woke up one day and counted 70 e-mails I had received in one day – from my very own team members alone, I decided to take matters into my own hand.
First, I requested that in the future my team send me only “yes or no” emails. Instead of describing a problem and waiting for my decision, they could send me emails in which they were already suggesting a specific course of action. Instead of writing: “TJ, the taxi company that transports our attendees to the hotel is not so reliable, what shall we do?” they could write something like: “TJ, the taxi company is not reliable. I searched for alternatives and would recommend that we do a test with this other company. Is that okay with you?”
If I agreed, I would just reply “yes” which takes me only two seconds. If I didn’t agree, I could always e-mail back my hesitations, another solution or a request for another proposal, or just ask the team member to stop by for a discussion of the matter at hand. The 80/20 rule tells you that this will save you enormous amounts of time on 80% of your emails. If you have a decent team, that is.
This one simple trick, which I call “binary emails” has now saved me hours and hours and hours of valuable time, and simultaneously, made my team grow to accept a much higher level of responsibility. Nowadays, I never get emails regarding a taxi company situation. My team feels empowered to just solve the problem on their own.
If I feel that the email I am reading doesn’t adhere to the “yes/no” rule, I use a canned email in my Fingertips application. I can respond to my team with 5 keystrokes, which helps keep them from getting sloppy.
A year later I stepped it up another level. I told my team that they could not email me anymore at all. This scared them initially, but has worked out great! I now schedule weekly meetings where I meet with everyone who directly reports to me for 20 minutes. I put a kitchen timer on my desk, and they bring a list of the items they want to discuss, sorted from priority to urgency. Of course they still have to propose yes/no solutions. And I may have some items of my own to discuss. Now, all the practical stuff for the week is taken care of in a single Monday afternoon. These two simple tricks, combined with many others, freed up so much of my time for more valuable tasks. No one can believe how free my schedule is now!
And my team is really thankful that I did this to them. Kinda funny, heh?
TJ Oosterkamp is a “Business Thinker” who’s primary focus is on working with entrepreneurs and managers to free up massive amounts of their time. Together with his friend and colleague Marleen Scott, he runs Fridays Off!®: a place where you will learn “practical and useful time saving tips for entrepreneurs.” Together, they co-authored the book “Change Agents” with Brian Tracy – before which they had already written two bestsellers about working smarter.
TJ wrote a nifty –free– Windows application called Fingertips, that enables you to work much faster and re-use phrases and paragraphs with just a couple of keystrokes. Check out TJ’s Maverick Bio here.