Richard Maun – books and blog

better business blog

Tips and stories to add value to you and your organisation


Do You Have This Email Habit?

19 May 2019

Let’s be honest. We all have habits. Our early morning coffe, or green tea in my case, for example. Perhaps you have to eat a ‘proper’ Sunday lunch each week, and would feel cheated with a lasagne, or a sandwich?

Habits can be helpful. They simplify our lives and remove the need to make choices. The same coffee. The same pizza topping. Regular watching of TV programmes. All help us to get through the week with a minimum of fuss.

Of course some habits can work against us. A glass of wine might help us to unwind after a stressful day, but is a second glass really so necessary, or just a habit?

Please don’t write in, you’re welcome to drink as much wine as you like. It’s your life!

Email is great. An instant, global postal service. I can remember being trained how to use email, 25 years ago, and wondering who I would possibly need to write to? If I wanted to talk to someone I’d pick up the telephone. Would email ever really catch on, I thought?

Well, it seems to. According to my dear friend Google, fount of all knowledge, figures suggest that in 2015 around 205 billion emails were sent every day. And only 3 of them weren’t spam. Haha, just my cynical little joke there. Ok, at least 12 weren’t spam. Accounting for useless messages, that’s still an awful lot of inbox pings.

Emails are useful and yet they can get in the way of office productivity. It’s fascinating to me that the post arrives once a day. We deal with it and then get on with our work. What we don’t do is pop to the Post Office and pester the post person there for another letter, or parcel.

We don’t turn up at 6am and demand to have our letters in our hand within 10 minutes of waking up.

We are content with a regular delivery. We are happy souls.

Our souls though seem to crave the excitement of email pinging. We often monitor our inbox for 18 hours a day, so we can curse at the workload, or get ahead of the pack.

Either way, if we have this bad habit; to constantly check our inbox, then we are reducing our productivity by more than we realise.

Every time we stop work and check for messages our brain has to wrench itself over to this new task. We might read a couple of messages and then go back to work, thus wrenching our brain back.

This constant flicking about is called ‘switching’ and it takes time for us to settle back into peak productivity. About 20 minutes, according to reputable research.

Therefore, although we might look and feel productive, we are actually working way below our ability for a big chunk of the day.

Many years ago a client group I was working with opted to switch off their email server between 11am and 3pm. They would answer emails in the morning, then settle down to sorting orders for despatch and then check their emails in the afternoon.

Customers didn’t mind at all, as the new system meant the team caught up with their backlog and deliveries were sent on time.

The team experienced less stress. Their work flowed and they were more productive.

Everyone was happy.

So, what’s the catch? There isn’t one. We don’t have to check emails every 10 minutes. We can leave them alone and block time to deal with them en masse. This reduces the amount of switching and our work rate will improve. We are being kind to our brains and kinder still to our customers and stakeholders.

So, this week, if you are in the habit of constant email checking then please think about doing it differently. Block time for emails and enjoy the freedom of leaving your inbox alone.

It might be the best time management tip of the year!

And your other little habits are yours. Enjoy them!

Next week: Skills Vs Traits

Risky Business!

12 May 2019

Do you like to take risks? Perhaps buy a new flavour of crisps and see if you like them? Or visit somewhere new on holiday for the fun of the adventure?

Driving to work involves risk. As does the school run, when we have to juggle busy roads with grumbling children!

We manage all sorts of risk on a daily basis and think nothing of it.

Sometimes life forces us to make a change and we have to adapt. In my younger days my role was made redundant more than once and in the end I decided to work for myself.

The risk of having one big paid job seemed greater to me than having lots of smaller clients. The risk is more evenly spread and after 15 years I’m still loving my work, and have never been tempted to make myself redundant. (One benefit of being your own boss is that you’re in charge of everything and I like that).

However, there is risk in business and it pays to carry out a risk audit at least once a year, to find out if there are any weaknesses, or blind spots.

We can review our strength in the following areas…

1. Cash. How much are we generating?

2. Sales pipeline. What is the trend here?

3. Customers. Do we know enough about them and their business?

4. Suppliers. Where are we over reliant and therefore vulnerable to disruption?

5. Competition. What trends are there for our products or services and are we ahead or behind the curve?

6. Key staff. How can we guard against the impact of two key people leaving us?

7. Process. Is our quality and on-time delivery performance within customer expectations, or have we become complacent?

8. Information. What is happening in the market place that could affect us?

9. Legislation. Are there governmental changes that could impact our business? (Think about the Making Tax Digital changes and how some small businesses are being affected).

10. Donald Rumsfeld. He said “…we also know there are known unknowns: That is to say we know there are somethings we do not know.”

I particularly like this quote. It invites us to check out our assumptions and arrogance. We can put our ego to one side for a moment and be humble. We can ask oddball questions and be creative with our thinking. If we do, then it’s likely that we will find out a fact that could reduce the risk of our business being hit.

Business is risky and we can be proactive to reduce the risks, or we can sail on oblivious and ignorant. It’s always our choice. What choice would you like your senior managers to make?

So, this week take time to do a risk audit. It may prove your business is sound and well managed and that’s always good to know!

Next week: Do You Have This Email Habit?


Click cover to view details on Amazon


Riding the Rocket

How to manage your Modern Career

Published 2013 Marshall Cavendish



Bouncing Back

How to get going again after a career setback

Published 2012 Marshall Cavendish



How to Keep Your Job

Brilliant ways to increase performance, stay employed and keep the money rolling in

Published 2011 Marshall Cavendish



Job Hunting 3.0

Secrets and skills to sell yourself effectively in the Modern Age

Published 2010 Marshall Cavendish



Leave the Bastards Behind

An insider's guide to working for yourself

Published 2007 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish



My Boss is a Bastard

Surviving turmoil at work

Published 2006 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish


© Richard Maun 2015 / Click here to contact