Inbox Zero

Some time ago I came across an article by Rebecca Corliss about managing her email inbox.  Given my liking for anything that helps people manage their inbox, naturally I was curious to find out how  did this. Her article is not available any more but her method is still worth considering.

You may think her method looks a bit complicated. However please stay with her as it is quite simple really.

Each email package will have the ability for you to create a new mailbox folder so while you are on holiday all your email will go into that folder instead of sitting in your inbox. Each package will work a little differently though the process to set up folders and filters will be similar.

You may think “so what” the email is all going to be there still when you get back from holiday.

However the beauty of this little ruse is that when you get back and your inbox starts to fill up with new messages, you can deal with them straight away and know they are current instead of having them at the top of several screens full of email that built up while you were away.

If you also set up an “out of office” message to let people know you’re away they will know not to expect a reply from you. Or you can ask them to contact someone else in the office.

Though it might take a bit to time to set it up in your email package, it will be worth is as it will save you so much time when you get back and you will feel more in control.

As Rebecca says “when I return from vacation, I strategically handle unread emails. … Once the more time-sensitive messages are addressed, I’ll simply allocate a couple hours a day to respond to the remaining emails in this vacations folder. That way, I’m not only back-on-track quickly, but am able to immediately start helping my team without all “email catch up” time getting in the way. No email overload to overwhelm me.

If you would like some help to set up your holiday email folder and filters, let me know and we can work on it together.

Free eBook – how to manage your email inbox

email ebook cover The volume of email arriving in the email inbox has become a major problem for many people. Since I’ve been working with small business owners I’ve realised just how big this problem is.

From time to time I’ve shared my thoughts on managing the email ogre in my blog. Now I’ve put some of those blogs together here so you have hints and tips on managing your email in one place. This will make it easier for you to use this advice to keep your email under control.

Check out my free eBook 8 Ways to Manage Your Email Inbox so you too can start to manage your email inbox.

Email Management – love it or hate it

When I gave this presentation recently I started by saying that the email experience is different for everyone – some people get maybe 10 emails a day while others get 100 or more. Each situation needs a different approach to managing email.

Read more

My email has stopped working. Grrrr!

All my email messages are still there and I can still see them.  But the little line at the top of the screen says “not responding” and I’m getting tired of trying to make it respond.

I can get by though because I have a backup email system that contains all my email.  I also have important messages saved in my directory structure. So I can find most of the emails I need.

Does that sound a bit like Little Goody Two-Shoes? Maybe so but to me it’s simply good business practice.

What I am missing is the folder structure I had set up in my usual email (MS Outlook).  In particular my “Action Required” folder where I saved anything that needed some action from me..  I don’t have that same folder structure in my backup system (Gmail). Now if I had only set that up before this happened …

Anyway, now it’s off to my IT support team to sort me out  in Outlook so I don’t waste any more time searching for emails that require me to take some action. And when they’ve done their bit, I’ll set up a mirrored folder system in Gmail so I won’t have the same frustration next time. Maybe I’ll use the Gmail Priority Inbox system.



Your first step to improve your office efficiency

You can improve the way your office operates by creating efficient access to all the information that you use in your business.

Information, both electronic and hard copy, is the cornerstone of your business.  No matter what your business is you need information about stock, designs and other intellectual property, cash flow, staff, client and supplier contacts, business plans; in fact all the knowledge that is held by your business in paper files or electronic documents and systems.

Not knowing where to find all this valuable information, or being unable to access it quickly when needed, can result in loss of contracts and lower profits.

You and your staff need to get at important information quickly and efficiently

If only one person knows where and how information is filed, other people in your business won’t be able to access it when that key person is unavailable

Your systems and processes for keeping business records will reflect the information flow and ensure that everyone is able to work efficiently. This in turn will improve productivity and thus increase profits.

Think about this…

  • How you lost a contract because you couldn’t find a key tender document in time for a meeting
  • The complaints from your team because they couldn’t find something  someone else had filed
  • Information you can’t find after you have filed it
  • An important email that was deleted in error or lost in the thousands of emails in your inbox
  • The tax payment you missed and penalty you had to pay because you couldn’t find the reminder from your accountant

When was the last time you were in one of these situations?  You need to organise our business information so you can find what you need when you need it.

Our e-workbook is here to help you.  This step-by-step instruction book will give you the tools you need to build your own system for keeping your business information under control.  It won’t take you long and will save your heaps of time and money currently lost in unproductive searching for information.

Don’t waste any more time searching for elusive documents or files.  Create your own filing system using our instructional workbook.  Available online now.

You can read more hints and tips to improve your business in the free eBook.


How to manage your electronic documents across devices

In my last blog I discussed the complexity of managing electronic information on all the different devices we can use to run our businesses today; the laptops, ipads, tablets smart phones  etc.

I gave you some rules to consider to help you keep your business information manageable when you’re out and about.

I noted that there are some technological solutions.  Lets have a look at these now.

For example you can use a laptop as your main device whether you’re working in the office, working with a client at their place, or when you’re out of town on business.

You can sync all your devices; use cloud based email (eg Gmail, icloud) and storage (eg Dropbox, Google docs).

You do have to think about what is best for you and your business and learn how to make the best use of the technologies and electronic devices.

You will still need to have a filing system within your chosen solution so that your business information is organised for quick and easy access no matter what format – email, text documents, spreadsheets, databases, images.

If you don’t I can promise you that your information will still be in mess no matter how much you spend on the technology.

That’s why I created my eWorkbook ‘Keeping Good Records in Small Businesses’ so you can learn what to do, what is important and how to do it. If you want to create your own filing system then this book takes you through the steps one at a time.  Alternatively you can use it as a starting point and work through it with one of our consultants – in person or via the cloud.

You can read about more hints and tips to improve your business in my free eBook; and even more if you download the eWorkbook that gives you a full set of instructions on how to set up a filing system for your business.

Judy Owen has been working with businesses of all sizes and complexities for more than 20 years to improve and streamline the access to their business information.  She and her team can show you how to reduce risk, improve productivity and increase profits with good business systems and processes in your business.


Filing used to be easy. What’s happened?

Filing used to be easy – or seemed to be – when we only had paper to sort out.  Sure there was lots of paper and people had shelves full of binders and large cardboard folders or boxes all neatly labelled.  But it all looked efficient and probably was.organised office#1

Still is for those who still keep good paper records of their business activities. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for because the labels on the folders are so clear.Then along came PCs and Macs with their electronic documents, spreadsheets, presentations and – OMG – email.

The devices and the software came with instructions on how to put the bits together and how to use the software.  The missing link though was how to organise the information people created and stored inside the devices.

As a result many people couldn’t find documents and important business information.  No-one had explained how to organise these files so documents could be found quickly and easily when they were needed.Now our electronic life has become even more complex as we have become more mobile and use tablets, mobile phones, laptops when we’re on the move and often a desktop PC back at the office.

So when we want to access certain pieces of information, which device is it on? Did I reply to that important email? If so where is my reply?  It can be so confusing.  So what to do?

Well there are a few simple rules you can impose on yourself:

  1. Stop and think about the implications of your actions now when you want to revisit them later
  2. Consider how critical it is to send that email from your smart phone right now.  Can it wait till you get back to the office later in the day?
  3. If you really must send an email while you’re out and about, Bcc the message to yourself so it’s in your inbox on your main device
  4. Don’t check your email on your mobile phone during the day (Hmmm, now there’s a challenge!)
  5. Discipline yourself to only send email from, and save documents to, your main device.
  6. If you are ruthless you can stop emails coming into your mobile phone.  You won’t be alone. Search Google for ways to stop email on your mobile phone

There are of course more technological solutions.  I’ll look at these next time.

Season’s Greetings – celebrate with our special Christmas offer

Special Christmas offer from Terrace Filing Services

20% off our e-workbook “Keeping Good Records for Small Businesses”.
Only $45.50. Offer ends 6 February 2014.

Give your business a flying start in 2014.  Take a fresh look at your filing system.

If you have been frustrated at the amount of time you have spent searching for that elusive piece of information during the past year, it is especially timely now to review your filing system  for both paper and electronic files and documents.

Take advantage of our special Christmas offer and take a few hours in January and February to give yourself loads of time later in the year. This offer is for 20% off our eWorkbook – the eBook that gives you step-by-step instructions to create or revise your office filing system.

To get this offer contact Terrace Filing Services
By email:
By text: 0274851706
Put “Christmas Special Offer” in the Subject.
Include your business name, email address and quote the code mx1312
For further information phone +64-4-9041498 during business hours or contact Judy
Offer ends 6 February 2014  

It’s easy to manage your email inbox: don’t send email

The email inbox is still the biggest problem for lots of people I work with.  The best advice I’ve seen recently about managing your inbox is don’t send email.  Really?? How does that work? You simply can’t live without email!

How often do you send an email to say “thanks” for a message sent to you? Is that message really necessary? How often do you receive an email message that simply says “thanks” or “OK”

Your email message generates emails back.

Think carefully about the next email you send. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you sending this information by email?
  • Is it really necessary?
  • How will that email benefit you and the receiver?
  • What does it add to the information the other person needs
  • Is this the best way to communicate your message? Or is there another way to get your message through to someone else?

Don’t do long email threads.  If the email conversation is generating a worthwhile discussion, phone the person, go to their desk/office and talk to them or arrange to go out for a coffee or lunch.  If more than one person is involved, arrange a meeting – even if only for a few minutes.

If you need to keep a record of the phone or in person discussion, write a quick note when you get back to my desk and file it.  If you need to remember something important from that discussion – say the time and place for another meeting, make a note of it – in a notebook or in your smartphone.

Now you’re not going to stop the emails altogether.  And I don’t suggest you do.  Email is a very effective way of communicating with other people.  But use it sensibly.

Organise the emails you go get into folders so emails like newsletters, social media alerts and such don’t actually reach your inbox.  Google has started to do this very effectively with Gmail.  Check out this video.

If you don’t use Gmail, it’s worth taking a few minutes to follow the Google’s advice and set up your own folders in the email package you use.

For more information on how to do this go to my blog “Demystify your inbox”  and “Good habits around email

Remember your email inbox is not a filing cabinet

You can contact me for more help or you can read about more hints and tips to improve your business in my free eBook; and even more if you download the eWorkbook that gives you a full set of instructions on how to set up a filing system for your business, including filing emails.

Judy Owen has been working with businesses of all sizes and complexities for more than 20 years to improve and streamline the access to their business information.  She and her team can show you how to reduce risk, improve productivity and increase profits with good business systems and processes in your business.






Maybe the paperless office will still come

When PCs appeared in businesses 20-30 years ago there was a widespread expectation that we would become a paperless society.

Over that period there has been some dismay that in fact we were creating more paper as people created an electronic document and then printed it.  Because the printed copy often wasn’t filed properly (if at all) it got ‘lost’ in a pile of other papers.  So when it was needed again, another copy was printed. And so it goes on!

Recent research however has found that the amount of paper flowing through businesses is now decreasing.  It’s taken a while but we are getting there.

What has caused this turnaround and why has it taken so long?

It’s more than 10 years since New Zealand passed the Electronic Transactions Act (2002) (ETA) which aimed to reduce uncertainty (of dates and times) and permitted legal requirements to be met electronically.

In spite of this stated purpose of the ETA, there has been a reluctance to accept an electronic version and there has been continued uncertainty around what is legally accepted electronically and what needs to be in paper format to be a legal document.

More recently however there has been some movement towards acceptance of scanned electronic signatures though there is still some unwillingness to accept some contracts with electronic signatures.

This is reminiscent of the early days of faxes.  Who remembers when you could fax a document for quick response but you had to post the original as well so you could file the original because a signature on a faxed copy wasn’t legally binding?  Or when the faxed copy had to be photocopied for filing because the ink on fax ‘paper’ faded.

It’s good to know that businesses of all sizes are now looking more towards keeping the electronic version as the official record of the business.  There are a number of reasons for this that vary for each business.

Whatever you decide for your business, the decision needs to be formalised in a policy statement that is communicated to everyone in your business who needs to know.

A sample policy statement is part of my eWorkbook offering.  It is a simple one-page policy statement that you can amend to suit your business.  Because the key points are there, it won’t take you long to create your own policy.  It’s worth involving your staff so you get buy-in to the policy before it is confirmed and implemented.

You can read about more hints and tips to improve your business in my free eBook; and even more if you download the eWorkbook that gives you a full set of instructions on how to set up a filing system for your business.

Judy Owen has been working with businesses of all sizes and complexities for more than 20 years to improve and streamline the access to their business information.  She and her team can show you how to reduce risk, improve productivity and increase profits with good business systems and processes in your business.