Don’t Organize: Save Time and Get More Done

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the e-mail server meltdown occasioned by too many “reply-to-all” e-mail.

At the time, I thought this might be as bad as it gets.

I was wrong.

Yesterday, on a flight from London to Munich, I spoke with a person sitting nearby, the managing director of a private equity firm based in Germany.  The topic turned to technology and he asked me if I could make a recommendation to solve his biggest problem, namely the filing of e-mail.

My answer was simple: I don’t file e-mail.  I explained that our e-mail system (Lotus Notes) has full text search and that I long ago decided it was a waste of time to move my e-mail out of my inbox into folders.  I further added that the filing away of e-mail messages brings with it several problems, most significantly the choice of which folder one should use.  You can’t of course place an e-mail into several folders similar to the way you might tag something with multiple criteria.  For example, if an e-mail message could go into one of the following folders, Knowledge Economy, Professional Services, IBM, and Microsoft, which should I choose?

After further discussion, he told me his reason that the filing of e-mail was such a concern.  He recently discovered that his secretary spends two hours per day filing e-mail.  He further learnt from his secretary that she is not alone – everyone (i.e. all of the secretaries) spend ca. two hours per day in such endeavors.

Needless to say, given a decent number of secretaries in the firm and the fact that this was one of several points where their work was impacted by information overload, I was speechless.  (Yes, really, I was.)

I wondered out loud how they might get any work done at all.  Our managing director agreed with that assessment.

Further discussion led me to question whether e-mail was the right modality for the type of information exchange being conducted.  My fellow traveler will be discussing this with me shortly, I presume.

In the meantime, if you are wondering what legions of administrative assistants and secretaries might be doing that is keeping them oh so very busy, we now have an answer.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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