Kill email before email kills you!

This is a personal and true story from my own life. It is a story about how working in an old fashioned way made me crash “into the brick wall” – burnt out without any energy left. A sad story. But also with a happy ending. A story about how I changed my attitude and got myself a totally «New Way To Work».

Years ago I worked for a company where my department used email as its main production line. All communication was taking place through the inbox. Even if they sat a few meters from each others they sent email to be sure to document everything they did. All their dialogues was through email.

It burned me out after a short time being locked into this email jail. I never got on top of my tasks and soon I met the wall with a bang. My body was in pain, my feelings was in pain. I had to leave meetings abruptly to go to the mens room to vomit or get some air to calm down and stop shivering.

My medical doctor was deadly honest: – You are overworked and you have only two options – fight or flight! But I don’t think you should fight any more, because your energy level is as low as it can get. You have to flight and move away from the situation, rebuild your energy, take long walks, clean out your stress and find a new way to handle all your tasks at work.

So, he told me to stay away from work for three months, he medicated me and sent me to a coach.

Three moths later, after a really tough time, I was back in business, with new energy, with a smile on my face, and whistling on a happy tune on my way to work – with a plan!

The turnaround!
I had decided to change the way I work. I had to get out of my inbox and get a new load balance by clustering with my colleagues. I had to share my tasks, my knowledge, my dialogues, my documents, my thoughts and my idéas with my colleagues. I had finally understood that working together is easier than working alone. Alone I can lift kilos. Together we can lift tons!

So I stopped my email abuse. And started work socially, using the social intranet for internal interaction, using the external social network for external interaction. I became an email extremist!

Are you one of those who have hundreds of emails waiting to be dealt with when coming home from vacation? I guess the answer is yes, unless you are one of those who read your work mail also when having time off. Time off?

Some of us use the out-of-office function in our mail client from time to time, saying things like “I am out of office until x-date and will not be able to deal with your email until I am back”.

This automated message tells the sender that nothing will happen until you are back. Or maybe your automated reply should also give a message that told the sender who to connect with while you are away – or maybe all email should be re-routed to a colleague who is on duty? Then things are taken care of when you are away.

Anyhow – there are lots of emails to deal with when you get back. If you are brave enough you could formulate an automated answer like Joana Breidenbach of charity fundraisers Betterplace. Send a mail to her when she is on a vacation and you’ll get an automated answer like this:

” Many thanks for your mail. Unfortunately I won’t be able to read it, as I am taking my annual email sabbatical. From August 1-29 all my emails will be automatically deleted. See you in September, Yours Joana.”

Wow, what a brave woman! Wish I dared to do that! Instead I keep all the incoming mail in my inbox and return an automated message saying something like ” I am out of office from x-date to y-date and will not be able to answer any mail. If urgent please call my colleague XYZ on X-phone number. If not I will deal with your email when I am back”.

The Solution!
The clue is then to sort your inbox when you are back again and only deal with the important ones. First thing I do is clicking on the button «Show only new email». Then I sort the emails using the “Blueberries” (a nice sorting function in IBM Notes, to my knowledge there are no other email systems offering the same or similar function). “Blueberries”, as I call them, are small blue dots marking each email whether the email is for me only, for me and four more people or for lots and lots of people. If you are not aware of this function look for it in the mail preferences.

All the emails with an open dot (not filled with blue color) I instantly delete without even opening them. Those mails are mostly for information to a whole range of people and are usually of no interest to me, nor have a content that is imperative for my tasks and goals.

All the emails with a half full dot are directly meant for me and four others. This is typical for mail that concerns a small group of people, especially people working close together on a team or on a project. These mails I do not delete, but set on hold until I have dealt with those mails that are addressed to me only, which is indicated with a full blue dot.

These are the emails I work through first and decide there and then what to do with them. Are there any action I have to do? Usually you find your tasks in the bottom of the mail. If so, could I do it in two minutes before I open the next mail? If so – I do it there and then without delay! Done is done! Next email!

If there are mails that do not expect any action from me, but have important information I should read later, then I flag the mail for later action – which to me means no more than 24 hours!

Me – the email extremist!
My personal mail regime is that there should be maximum 5 mails in my inbox at the end of office hours. All those five mails should be flagged and have to be dealt with before I do any new tasks the next work day!

I do not use folders in my mailbox. Folders and archives are where documents and emails go to die. Folders and archives are – in my mind – the graveyard of knowledge. Only documents and email on travel, in action, has a real value.

Think of it: If you have a marriage contract with your spouse on how things (economy, house and other stuff) should be split between you if, by any chance, you should get divorced (50 % of all marriages in my country ends with divorces) – what value does that contract/agreement have while there are only happy days? None, whatsoever! The document is stored in the safe and has no value until it gets activated when the war is firing up! Then it has a value and become what former military professionals (as myself) calls «Rules of War».

Don’t store – share!
Many of us download a lot of stuff from internet. It might be good to have this information some day. We become information hoarders.

So what do I do with email I have to store? Well, I do not store them – I share them with my team in communities, activities, in project rooms or in customer communities. Because those creates dialogue around the documents and the mails. Because more people than myself can learn from those emails and documents and we all learn more together from the dialogues we share.

Documents have no value!
In my mind a dialogue around a document has more value than the document itself. Because a document is created by one brain only, but dialogues happens between a number of brains. And a number of brains have more creativity, more knowledge and more processor power than just one.

I call this “The Clustering of Brains”. Those of you who know how we cluster data servers to balance the workload, to secure information and to speed up processing performance, will know what I mean. It is the same with brain clusters.

So I bring my information, my mail, my documents out in the open. Today, in my own company Brainworker, I use IBM Connections Cloud, both internally and externally. For email, for sharing documents, for sharing discussions, wikis, files, adresses, editing documents, spreadsheets, presentations web meetings, chat – almost everything! It reduces my inbox, improve my productivity, improve my skills and provides a better load balance (the balance between my work life, private life and my private values).

And I use this great solution both on my Mac’s and my handhelds. It is simply a total new way to work that helps me stay on top of everything. It helps me get a balanced life.

So maybe my new out-of-office message should be something like this:

” Thank you for sending me email. If I am only one of hundreds of receivers (BCC:) I will probably not find your email important and focused enough to read and therefore I will delete it, unread. If yourr email is meant only for me or a group of five I will read it during work hours and take action within 24 hours. Be aware that I never read email attachments. Please share them in a community where all stakeholders may share dialogues around the document and share ideas – to make us all more productive and knowledgable. For short messages please call me on phone or ping me on Sametime. Have a nice and productive day!”

Or something like that…

Kill email before email kills you! Get a social life!

PS! Some of the email handling methods I describe above are based on my earlier IBM Notes email client. Now I use IBM Verse which is an intelligent email reader/handler and acts more or less like a personal assistant. IBM Verse is part of my social intra/extranet that I use to collaborate both internally and externally with business partners and customers.

How To Use Email To Transform How We Work

hand touching touch pad, social media conceptToday we use too much time working in our mail boxes searching for information. Some analysts says that we use more or less 28 hours a week working with email. That is in fact nearly three full workdays. So we simply must find a new way to work!

Social tools, and mobile and cloud technologies have significantly changed the expectations of consumers about mail, social interaction and other collaboration tools. We bring these expectations to the workplace. While at work, many of us experience significant information overload from disconnected applications built for an earlier era. When it comes to the technology we use, we want our work experiences to mirror the slick experiences we have in our personal lives, while our organizations want tools with company-wide security and scalability.

Carolyn Pampino, IBM, has published and article about his in Forbes. It is a must read! Here is the link!

Hate email? Tomorrow there is a New Way to Work

Skjermbilde 2014-11-16 kl. 11.36.06Really fed up with good old fashioned email? Fed up with full mailboxes with a chaos of important messages and even more unimportant ones? Fed up with all the email that make you unfocused and destroy your daily workplan?

Do not be afraid. There is a solution coming your way. There is a New Way to Work with email. A solution that help you structure your work, focus on doing the important things and only view email that is in context with what you do.

Follow the live stream tomorrow when IBM presents this new and revolutionary New Way to Work codenamed IBM Mail Next. Tomorrow they will reveal the name of the solution and show the world the new way to work.

Even if you won’t be in the auditorium in New York, you can still enjoy the event. Register now to watch live as experts, authors and futurists share their visions for “A New Way to Work.” Talks will stream live 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard (EST). Replay will be available on demand approximately 3 hours after the live event.

Direct link to registration!


96 % say change is imperative to become a successful business

– We need to change our culture! A new study from Booz & Company shows that 96 % of respondents think culture change is needed in their organization. 

It is quite interesting to read some of the results from the study:

  • 84 percent of respondents, and 86 percent of C-Suite respondents, believe that their organization’s culture is critical to business success.
  • 60 percent said culture is more important than the company’s strategy or operating model.
  • 96 percent said some form of culture change is needed within their organization.
  • 51 percent believe their organization is in need of a major culture overhaul.
  • 45 percent do not think their culture is being effectively managed.
  • 48 percent do not think they have the capabilities required to deliver lasting change.
  • At 57 percent, skepticism due to past failed efforts was the No. 1 reason for resistance to change.

In my daily job I meet with a lot of C-level managers in all the Nordic countries and they all talk about company culture. Some tell me that they do not have a culture for sharing knowledge. Some say that they are not social. And some say that they do not need to change, as they are already a success.

Well, that is not what their employees say. They tell me that they need to change. They tell me that they need new tools that make it easier for them to collaborate, share information, share competence, act faster and increase their productivity. They want to focus on the important stuff and make it easier and faster to do the routine stuff.

In my mind, constant change is an imperative for any success. If you do not change you are in status quo.

Simply said:

If you do what you always have done, you will get the same results you always got. Which means no growth, no improvement.

In my mind, no change means stagnation and a slow death.

So , how do we change a an old culture?

Let us start by defining culture in itself, and then define our culture.

I think that culture builds up from what we do – our daily actions. The sum of our actions creates our behavior pattern and the sum of all our personal behavior patterns in a group or a company – is the company culture.

So to change the culture we have to change our behavior. We have to start working in a new way. Technology is a great help. Years ago we jumped on a horse if we wanted to visit our neighbors. Then we got a new technology – the automobile – and now we drive to other places. We changed and also got a new culture.

So, to improve productivity, share knowledge and information we need new tools that help us do our work smarter, faster and easier – freeing up time that can be used more productive. Becoming a social business is one of the best ways to change. Giving the employees new and smarter tools, opening up the organization to let ideas, thoughts and knowledge flow freely among the skilled brains – your employees. It will empower and energize the workforce. It will create higher revenue streams, lower cost and improve productivity.


My TEDx talk: How to do less and get more done!

Is it really possible to get more done by doing less? In my opinion, yes! But to succeed you have to focus, focus and focus!

It is not a question about time management. No one has ever seen nor touched time! So how can you manage something you can’t see or touch? No, it is all about what you do. It’s all about activities and what you prioritize.

Earlier this fall I had the pleasure of talking at TEDx Trondheim and here is the video of my speech.

As you will see, the remote control did not function for any of the speakers, so we had to snap our fingers as a signal to a technician to switch pages in the presentation. That made me feel like a man I admire a lot for his ability to focus on the basic instincts; Cesar Millan from my favorite TV-show “The Dog Whisperer”. What he teaches regarding both dogs and people is more or less the same as the theme for TEDx Trondheim; Back To Basic.

And that is what this video really is a bout – getting back to basic – doing things simpler, making our lives simpler and our goals more achievable by focusing and doing only the important things in life.



The way you work is changing and you’ll better adapt to it…

I’m not saying email is dead but it is no longer the most effective way to communicate and collaborate with co-workers.  Email today has become a glorified chat messaging program and we all stare at our in-boxes.  If you don’t reply to an email within a few hours people get mad at you, when did this become the norm?  New collaborative technologies make it easier to collaborate, share, find, communicate, and engage with people and information.  There’s no excuse for getting 200 emails a day anymore.

The quotation above is from an article by Jacob Morgan published on It is a great article showing how the way we work is changing and how companies are changing due to new technology and the need to improve both productivity, flexibility and strategy to compete in todays fast changing and global markets.

It is a great read, not only about email, but also on the need for structural and organizational change!


Byword keeps my text editing simple

I have fallen in love with Byword – a no nonsense text editor that let you concentrate on the context of what you are writing and trying to communicate, not on fancy functions and formatting tools.

In a way it reminds me of the editing tools I used when I was a journalist using professional editing system for editorial production. No graphing, no fancy stuff, just concentrating on the words.

There are no disturbing menus and typos, just a clean white space, or a totally black screen that occupies the whole screen so you avoid any disturbances from other software!

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 07.36.37

It also has a function that makes it possible to publish directly to your blog, in my case WordPress, but there are many blog systems to choose from.

Byword runs on any Mac’s or handheld Apple devices, be it iPad or iPhone. It saves you documents on iCloud, Dropbox or where else you want to keep them.

So, if you want an easy to use, no nonce, no fancy stuff and concentrate on being a writer and not a document designer, then check out Byword.

I simply love it!