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News & Insight

View RALI news and insights to keep up to date with the latest on trend developments relating to future leadership capability and experience requirements and the future world of work.

We live in a whirlwind of information. We’re all consuming media minute to minute in ways we could never imagine just five years ago. New social media platforms like TikTok have us laughing and dancing, and we watch breaking news live as events …

25th Feb 2021 | 08:00am

The truth is out: A 2020 ResumeLab study shows that a majority of job seekers fudge a detail or two on their résumés. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed confess to outright lying, and still others admitted to stretching the truth, bringing …

25th Feb 2021 | 07:00am

Listen to the latest episode of Fast Company’s podcast Creative Conversation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

It’s easy to get caught up in the staggering commercial success Joe and Anthon…

25th Feb 2021 | 06:30am

Few of us love spending time in our inboxes. Email is one of the tasks people complain about most, but the problem may not be the tool but with how we’re using it, says Cal Newport, author of the new book A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in a World of Communication Overload.

“Email has actually created a productivity disaster,” he says. “It makes us miserable and creates a background hum of anxiety that we simply accept as a necessary part of our professional lives.”

But is it really necessary? Newport says, “No.”

“After I wrote Deep Work in 2016, one of the most common follow-up questions I got was, ‘Why is it so difficult to have long periods of unbroken concentration?’” he says. “Part of the problem is that people check email too much. Working this way is missing value. Who decided email was the best way to work?”

Why Email Is Ineffective

The problem with email is the workflow approach it enabled that Newport calls the “hyperactive hive mind,” which is centered around ongoing conversation delivered by digital communication tools.

“Email as a way of coordinating knowledge work involves back-and-forth, ad hoc, on-demand, unstructured messaging,” he says. “That’s the problem. It became accidental. No one thought it was a good idea. We stumbled into email, got stuck into this way of working, and stagnated.”

Once you realize the problem is the fundamental workflow, it changes everything, says Newport.

“Trying to better organize your messages or create better habits and hacks with norms on response time, subject lines, and shorter messages—these are ways of trying to solve the problem from within your inbox,” he says. “You need to fix the workflow. Take the hyperactive hive mind and replace it with other ways of collaboration that don’t generate so much back and forth. That changes the scope of the problem.”

Get Out of the Inbox

To reduce your email, Newport recommends defining processes. “With knowledge work, we often don’t name the processes,” he says. “The best way to start is to look at a typical day. When you’re about to answer an email, ask yourself, ‘What process is this implicitly connected to? And what is a better way to do this repeated thing in such a way that it could reduce back-and-forth unscheduled messaging?’ You may identify 15 regular processes.”

Then look for better solutions. For example, a lot of organizations use task boards where everything about a project is posted. Workers can find information, schedules, responsible parties, and statuses. If you have a question, you head to the board, eliminating the need for back-and-forth messaging.

Another solution is to create predictable, understood systems. “A lot of knowledge work is automatable,” says Newport. “The easy thing is to rock and roll through them with email, but you can often tame these with an automated process.”

For example, if you’re producing a weekly podcast, you may create a schedule and workflow for the week, with rough notes due in Dropbox by end of day Monday, edits due to the production team on Wednesday, and a PDF file created by Thursday.

“It takes a little overhead upfront, but it makes a big difference,” says Newport. “You no longer have to comment on everything by email if everyone knows what to expect.”

Getting Started

Ultimately, the best way to solve the email problem is at a team or organizational level, reworking processes. “There is huge potential for profit on the table,” says Newport. “Changes are inevitable. It’s a matter of being in front of trend or not.”

In the meantime, individuals can take control by identifying processes and putting solutions in place themselves.

“You can’t control others, but you can identify how you can minimize back and forth,” says Newport. “Move away from hacks and get to processes. I don’t recommend advertising that you’re doing this; just make the changes and see what happens.”

One piece of low-hanging fruit that is disproportionate in value to its negative cognitive impact is scheduling meetings. “It punches above its weight class in terms of cognitive disruption because you have to keep checking,” he says.

Newport sets office hours, making time available for anyone who needs a meeting or phone call. “It can take seven or eight asynchronous emails that result in a combined 70 to 80 inbox checks to exchange the same information,” Newport says. “It’s an easily solved process. Use Acuity or Calendly meeting tools, or create a shared document with open meeting times.”

When you take email out of the picture for processes where it slows down and hinders workflow, you can use the tool for its best reason: distributing information.

“Email is a convenient version of an old-fashioned mailbox,” he says. “It can be a good way to share announcements—anytime you’re sending information and not collaborating. Email needs to return to that again.”

25th Feb 2021 | 06:00am

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. At least that appears to be the common belief among many of the business owners I’ve spoken with.
The pandemic and resulting challenges have created a steep hill for many businesses to climb. For …

25th Feb 2021 | 05:00am

Anthony Di Iorio, co-founder of Ethereum, is plotting a way out of cryptocurrency to tackle a project he hopes will help change the world for the better

24th Feb 2021 | 03:51pm

Research shows that giving someone a boost can lift you up too.

24th Feb 2021 | 01:35pm

Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfound…

24th Feb 2021 | 01:10pm

In my attorney days, I had a to-do list for each active case, which I carried with me from meeting to meeting like security blankets. Truth be told, I loved my to-do lists. But with working 12-plus-hour days and feeling like I never accomplished quite …

24th Feb 2021 | 10:00am

Bitwise Industries, a startup that is creating tech ecosystems to increase economic opportunities in undervalued cities, just scored $50 million in series B financing led by Kapor Capital, with participation from JPMorgan Chase, Motley Fool Ventures, a…

24th Feb 2021 | 08:00am