Would you like a simple way to dramatically cut the time you spend on emails?
According to a survey conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, office workers spend 2.6 hours per day reading and answering emails. This equates to 33% of a 40-hour workweek.
What’s worse is that smartphones, laptops, and other mobile devices have many checking their email constantly: while commuting (yes, I see you checking your phone while driving), waiting at the doctor’s office, at mealtimes, and every other situation imaginable.
But is there a better way to manage your email? Over the years,
1. Unsubscribe from email newsletters.
Do you really need to subscribe to all those fashion websites? Those flash deals-of-the-day offers? Those viral clickbait “news” headlines? Don’t give permission to all those companies to intrude on your day, to interrupt your flow, and to tempt you with their offers. They’re trying hard to get into your head, but they can’t if they’re not in your inbox to begin with.
Just go into your email and search for “unsubscribe” and then unsubscribe from all the email newsletters that you find. There’s also a great website called Unroll.Me that will let you easily unsubscribe from the newsletters you want to trash. It will then consolidate the newsletters you want to keep into one big daily email.
Email is not intended to be an urgent form of communication. Nowadays, when most of us are getting 50 to 500 emails a day, getting email notifications is a sin. Notifications interrupt your concentration, your work sprints, and your ability to be present during meetings and conversations.
Whatever notifications you’re using, whether an audible ding, a phone vibration, or a little window that pops up with every new email–turn it off.
3. Think twice before you forward, cc or bcc.
As reported in an August 9, 2013, article in the Wall Street Journal, London-based International Power reduced total email traffic by 54% just by encouraging their top executives to “think twice” before they forwarded an email or added anyone to the cc: line. Too often we forward or cc someone in the spirit of keeping them “in the loop,” but in reality we are contributing to the information overload problem.
Remember, every email you send and every cc you include means you are likely going to get a reply back into your own email box. If you send less email, you’ll also receive less email.
4. Use the subject line to indicate the action required.
An ideal subject line doesn’t just indicate the subject of the email, but also the type of action it requires. This helps email recipients to process your email in less time. And they’ll learn to reciprocate. The idea is to preface your subject line message with some meta-information. I like to use all caps to make this part of the subject stand out from the message. Here are some examples:
“FYI: [subject]”—Use the FYI designation when you are just passing info along as a courtesy.
“ACTION REQUIRED by [DATE]: [subject]” or “TO DO by [DATE]”—Use ACTION REQUIRED when your recipients should take an action, but they don’t report to you; use TO DO when you are giving a directive to someone who reports to you.
“NRN: [subject]”—NRN stands for “no response needed” and can be used to eliminate the polite response emails that people often send like “Thanks” or “Looks interesting” or “I’ll take a look at this next week,” etc.
“[subject]–EOM”—My personal favorite, EOM stands for “end of message” and lets you put super short messages right in the subject line. EOM tells the recipient, don’t bother opening this one because all the content is in the subject line.
5. Keep emails short—really short.
Realize that being brief isn’t rude; it’s a sign of respect for the other person’s time (in addition to your own).
There is even a movement that suggests we consider email messages to be similar to text messages. The website five.sentenc.es suggests you limit all your emails to five sentences or fewer and then add a footer message that directs people to the website for an explanation.
6. Use the 321-Zero system.
I’m a firm believer that you should only process email three times a day.
Schedule three times to process your email (morning, noon, night), set the timer on your phone for 21 minutes, and try to get to inbox zero in that time. Make a game out of it—21 minutes is typically not enough time to get to zero, and that’s intentional. But this goal will keep you focused, ensure that your responses are short, and keep you from clicking links out onto the wonderful world of internet distractions.
7. Immediately apply the 4 D’s.
Every time you open an email, you should be ready to Delete it (archive), Delegate it (forward), Defer it (move to your calendar), or Do it.
• Delete: When you think “delete,” in most cases you should really just archive. These days, with virtually unlimited storage space, it’s easy to just hit the Archive button on most things, knowing that you can use the search function to get it back again in the future.
• Delegate: If someone else should be handling this, forward it immediately.
• Defer: If you defer an email, in most cases that means immediately adding an entry to your calendar—“moving” the email to a calendar entry.
• Do: If you can handle this in five minutes or less, do it right away.
After each of first three actions, either archive the email or delete it.
In addition to the 4 D’s, consider F for File it. In my opinion, this is just another form of archiving, but it can be helpful especially if you’re nervous that you might not be able to find something again. Just create folders for all your projects, clients, or even something like “Respond to Someday,” and then drag emails related to those topics into the folders to keep your inbox nice and clean.
There they are—seven simple steps to master your email. Try using these to keep your email under control, and you’ll suddenly discover hours per week that you didn’t know you had.
Kevin Kruse is the author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management and “The Millionaire Day Planner: A Free 1-Page Planning Tool.”
How AI Can Help Cut Energy Costs While Meeting Ambitious ESG Goals
Rising and volatile energy prices, fueled in part by geopolitical conflicts, are putting business leaders under urgent pressure to cut costs. Energy is eating up an increasing share of corporate budgets, leaving less funding for innovation and growth.
At the same time, consumers, investors, and regulators increasingly expect companies to embrace environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles and speed up with factual decarbonization. In most industries, thriving in the long term requires urgent progress on ESG. Many enterprises have set ambitious goals for reducing their carbon footprints but are struggling to achieve them.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing that today, helping companies optimize energy consumption, deploy renewable energy sources, and manage infrastructure for EVs. With the proper AI technology and energy expertise, any organization with sufficient digitization experience and infrastructure can tap the potential of AI to reduce operating costs while moving the needle on sustainability.
“If we want to ‘decarbonate’ the planet, we need industries to electrify much more, to be more efficient, to use less energy, and to create less waste,” says Philippe Rambach, SVP and Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer of Schneider Electric. “That requires a combination of digitization and AI to optimize our processes.”
The Power of AI
Addressing the twin challenges of energy and sustainability can be challenging: companies need to integrate renewable energy efficiently while ensuring reliable power, but renewable energy sources produce an inconsistent supply that changes with shifting environmental conditions. Such measures as introducing a fleet of EVs requires businesses to manage demand, expand grid capacity, and install charging infrastructure while accounting for energy costs and grid stability.
AI is critical for addressing these obstacles at scale, drawing on massive volumes of data—more than humans could reasonably process—to reveal patterns of energy use and areas of inefficiency. Using AI can help companies incorporate renewable power sources, manage better decisions about EV charging infrastructure, and reach their sustainability objectives, all while cutting energy costs.
As more companies become “prosumers”—both consuming and producing energy—the combination of Big Data and AI can help them use energy efficiently and pivot in real time.
AI and the Future of Energy Management
Despite the best intentions, 85% of AI projects are projected to fail. Successful AI implementation requires organizations to use custom-made solutions that integrate seamlessly into existing operations and processes. And beyond technology, these organizations also need external domain expertise on AI, energy management, and industrial automation from a partner with extensive experience.
Innovations in three cases illustrate the potential of AI to help organizations curb energy use and promote sustainability.
1. A Carbon-Neutral Distribution Center
The 40-year-old supermarket chain Lidl operates approximately 12,000 grocery stores and more than 200 distribution centers in 31 countries.
The company opened a distribution center with Finland’s largest industrial microgrid, hosting 1,600 solar panels and a battery storage system that lightens the load on the national power grid. Its advanced heating and cooling system stores excess heat to reuse in cold weather and provides hot water to around 500 households.
Using AI-enabled forecasts and optimization, the center operates on 100% renewable energy and has reduced its energy costs by 70%.
2. Energy Management for a Fleet of EVs
Schneider Electric manages a large fleet of electric vehicles (EVs) at its headquarters outside Paris. The sheer scale of this fleet could disrupt the smooth operation of the building if all the EVs were charged at the same time.
To address this issue, the company uses an energy-management solution that monitors such critical factors as power availability, weather conditions, and energy sources to prevent power surges during charging peaks and to generate, distribute, and manage power from multiple sources.
At the heart of this approach is the Edge Control component, which optimizes the distribution of power to EVs in real time and maintains a balance between charging needs and available power, using cloud-based AI-driven analytics.
By accounting for such variables as power demand and weather conditions, the analytics ensures optimal power distribution to the building from various energy sources in a microgrid. The result is significant building power efficiency and a marked reduction in carbon footprint.
3. Transforming a Factory in Northern France
Renault Group, the French car manufacturer, set the ambitious goal of achieving a negative carbon balance at its plant in Flins, France, by 2030. To do so, the automaker installed environmentally friendly switchgear and smart sensors that enabled forecasting and remote monitoring of equipment and outages. As a result, the factory has reduced costs and made advances on its sustainability objectives.
Enabling Sustainability and Innovation
The transition to renewable energy cannot happen without AI. But every organization has its own needs and objectives, and implementing the latest off-the-shelf AI technology may not be enough to achieve them.
Schneider Electric’s Rambach says, “Small additional investments in AI solutions in energy optimization and industrial automation can unlock the value of the large investments companies have already made in the cloud and in data gathering.”
Implementing AI can help companies slash energy spending and operate sustainably. Tackling these complex challenges by combining AI with human expertise can have an impact far beyond the organizations leading these efforts.
Discover AI solutions with Schneider Electric.
Working Strategies: Negotiating a raise can cut both ways
How do you negotiate for salary when the other person knows pretty much everything about your current pay package? This is the situation for internal negotiations, which workers may undergo when asking for a new role, navigating a promotion, or starting with a new employer post-merger.
The problem with your boss knowing the specifics of your current compensation is that you can’t leverage any of those points. In an external negotiation, it’s routine to state that you’re used to a certain level of flexibility or vacation time or bonus. In an internal situation, not only are the facts already known, they were likely being used to build the offer you’re now pondering.
Still, if these were the only challenges faced by internal candidates, the process would be pretty manageable. Unfortunately, the situation gets murkier by the minute when two people who know each other enter into a salary conversation.
Here are some of the pitfalls for internal candidates, followed by tips for managing them.
Knowledge of your salary: Let’s say you’re applying for a new role with a range of $50,000 to $70,000 and you make $48,000 now. Rather than offering you the mid-range of $60,000 — a very natural number to land on for a candidate with knowledge of internal systems and clients — your boss could be inclined to calculate the offer as a percentage of your current salary. Hence, a 15% increase would result in an offer of $55,200, or nearly $5,000 less than the mid-range. In other words, your boss is basing the offer on what you currently make rather than the value of the job itself — and probably feels generous doing it, since annual increases might be hovering at only 4%.
Knowledge of your personal situation: If others know that you have a sick spouse or three kids in college or that you’re planning to retire in a few years, they’re bound to incorporate that information into their offer. The same goes if you have been part of this company for a long time. They’re assuming that you’d rather take this offer than start a search elsewhere, even if it costs you money. What’s insidious about this kind of thinking is they’re probably right — and they may honestly believe they’re doing you a favor, even with a lowball offer.
Presumed knowledge of your abilities: Being a “known quantity” can have its advantages but it can also backfire. On the plus side, your soft skills and insider knowledge will be tacitly understood, which doesn’t happen for an external candidate. On the minus side, internal bosses have a way of not seeing the full range of their workers’ abilities and duties. They may believe the position you’re moving toward would be further outside your current responsibilities than is the case.
Cultural precedent: In some companies, lack of upward movement is embedded in the culture. Hence, there’s a shock factor when someone asks for an increase outside the norm. Plus, your boss may feel obligated to keep salaries aligned in the department, not wishing to tip the scales for an individual worker with a large increase.
All of these pitfalls for internal candidates share a common element — they come from a closed-loop system of information, with decisions based primarily on what is known or presumed. To shake that up, consider these steps.
1. Benchmark against similar roles externally: There are dozens of salary sites online, as well as guides created for specific industries. Although your company’s financial eco-system may not match with these other organizations, it can be helpful to present the data.
2. Update your LinkedIn: Beefing up your social media presence can influence your boss to see you as a flight risk, which is helpful. You want to introduce the idea that you’re market-ready as a way of countering the perception that you wouldn’t consider leaving.
3. Create a job-specific internal résumé: Outlining your achievements and abilities as they relate to this position can be clarifying. Use clear examples of projects and customer interactions in greater detail than you would for an outside reader.
As a final tip, remember to negotiate! When presenting the information noted above, be sure you accompany it with the amount you feel you should receive. If your counter-proposal yields disappointing results, you can request a mid-year review, or ask for the guarantee of an increase at year’s end, based on performance.
Just don’t forget that the goal of negotiating a job is two-fold: To achieve the appropriate salary, and to preserve the working relationship. The second part is especially true for internal candidates.
Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.