Check Your Emailing and Your Meeting Calling

It probably won’t shock anybody to learn that emails and meetings can be a big source of wasted time. But did you know that new software can help employees identify whether they are sending too many emails or calling too many meetings?

Sue Shellenbarger writes about the new applications, noting that the tools provide a wake-up call to some employees to assess their emailing and meeting habits. But even if your organization doesn’t have the fancy dashboards that let you monitor efficiency, you can still learn to make wiser use of emails and meetings. Here are a few ideas from Shellenbarger’s report:

Common time-wasting habits include copying too many people into emails and overuse of “reply all.” Inviting too many people to meetings is another common mistake, says Michael Mankins, lead author of the study and a Bain partner based in San Francisco. He suggests following the “rule of seven” people at a meeting: Every attendee added to that number reduces the likelihood of making sound decisions by 10%.

Another red flag: including people from more than two levels of management. When several layers of management meet, “you have to ask whether you need all these people at a meeting,” says Dave Aune, a senior technology executive at Seagate.

On email, many employees spend a lot of time writing responses because they fear failing to answer will offend colleagues or hamper their work. However, many emails don’t require a response, Mr. Mankins says. He suggests slowly reducing the responses you send, explaining to co-workers, “I’m saving you time.” […]

Even short “reply all” answers such as “OK” or “thanks” take time to delete, says Joan Capua, New York, a communications skills trainer. Recipients should hit “reply all” only if they have valuable information to add or need to disagree, she says.

Another idea: Use project-management software instead of email for work on larger projects:

Other employers rout out time-wasting email and meetings by training and requiring employees to use project-management applications, which typically store project files in one place online where all employees involved can see, update and comment on them as needed. This reduces the need for email or meetings. [Wall Street Journal, December 2]