I received an auto email response from a friend just the other day. Said friend’s response went thus;

Thankyou for your email. I read my emails daily at 8,11 and 3pm. If your email requires urgent attention please phone me on XXXXXXX

I had a chuckle when I received it. It seemed a typical reaction from the “personal efficiency brigade”. Late last year I was at an event where David Allen, the father of “Getting Things Done”, (and the person that has made a fortune out of it) was presenting. I posted after the sessions saying;

Getting things done. (and a thought – isn’t spending time talking about having to get things done a little oxymoronic – kind of like fighting for peace?)

David Allen, founder of the Getting Things Done methodology spoke and described his process for Getting Things Done. I’ve never been a huge fan of these sorts of programs – I figure you’re either a good time manager or you aren’t. Although that’s easy for me to say – I find multi tasking pretty easy (no matter what my wife says!)

Pretty much I’m from the school of thought that contends that the “4 hour workweek”, “Getting Things Done”, “Sort Your Life in 12 Easy Steps” brigade are little more than snake-oil merchants selling the literary equivalent of the abflexer, eternal youth capsules or, for that matter, the social media consultant; people who sell an unsuspecting customer the hope and dream of a solution to all their problems in a few easy steps.

But getting back to the auto-response. The sender (a fine chap it must be said) is not only a major email user but also a fan of micro blogging who tweets with reckless abandon. I sent out something of a rhetorical question asking whether it wasn’t a non-sense to only check emails three times a day while still routinely using Twitter. Most respondents agreed with my perspective – to avoid checking email but to continue monitoring the fire-hose that is Twitter, seems a little counter-intuitive.

Or not?

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • Ha ha – I think I know who you emailed because I’ve had that same response before too! I don’t think checking emails three times a day is going to increase your productivity, but it depends on how much mail you get and how important it is you read it on time. It’s been a while since I read the GTD book, but one of the key concepts is actioning items as they arrive (Do it, Defer it, Delegate it), and letting your emails build up for a few hours before actioning them could end up making you more unproductive.
    I live and breathe on email – a four hour delay in reading an email could cost me business – instead I spend a few seconds on each email when it arrives and action it there and then. Just takes a bit of discipline.

  • I think you’re being pretty harsh Ben. You seem to be implying that people are either organized or they’re not, and that having a system of tools, processes and heuristics that helps you keep better track of everything and deal appropriately with incoming signals would be of no value to anyone, or at least that no such system is better than what you’re likely to be able to manage on your own, and that it would be dishonest to attempt to persuade anyone otherwise. I’d have to disagree with that.

  • @Stuart – I’m with you. My email is always open and I deal with stuff as, and when, it happens.

    @Seth – yes to a certain extent I do believe that either you’re organized or you’re not. While one can learn some of the skills to help with lack of organization, to a certain extent all those processes get in the way of just getting things done…

  • It’s a question of whether the book-keeping overhead outweighs the advantages gained. Which depends the person, the system, and the tools they use to support it. Some systems will work better than others, and which system works best for someone depends to some extent on their personality. I don’t think that puts the system creators in quite the same moral category as snake oil salesmen.

    OTOH I do think anyone who really thinks reading the 4 hour work week will actually result in them working 4 hours a week is probably dreaming and that Tim Ferris “oversells” his system more than David Allen, but then I haven’t actually read that book so I’ll try not to be too judgemental about it. GTD I have read, and it seems like a pretty honest attempt to help people.

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