Business Practices

The email hacks every busy person needs

Yesterday morning I received 327 emails. In less than an hour, my inbox was empty.

I’m a huge fan of email. And anyone who works with me knows I’m prone to saying, “Flick me an email explaining what you want and I’ll come back to you.”

Want a meeting? Flick me an email outlining what we’re going to discuss and what the objectives are. Want to chat about your tech issues? Email me a set of bullet points, and I help you the best I can.

Too cold?

I don’t know, maybe. Perhaps you have more free time than me. Or you’re on a fixed salary, and chatting about the weather, the footy scores and the girl in Accounting doesn’t impact your productivity enough for you to care.

But I value time more than anything. It’s the one thing I can’t make. No one can.

You probably think this is why I get so many damn emails – because I don’t want to talk to anyone! That might be part of the reason, but still, I prefer it that way because, for me, email is an easy monster to manage.

For many people, it’s the opposite. Email is a massive problem for them, like social media. They live in their inbox – it’s their to-do list, their filing system and their master, all wrapped into one.

I used to pride myself on answering emails within 10 minutes. But it meant deferring my schedule, my work practices – effectively my life – to everyone else. About a year ago, I changed all this. I decided I wouldn’t let others determine my agenda anymore.

So I implemented a simple set of rules.

1. I only check email at 10:30 am, 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm.

This allows me to attack my number one objective straight after I wake. Instead of reacting to the whims of ‘urgent work’, I’m productive from the moment I make the first cup of tea, which is usually around 6:30 am. Do you know how much you can achieve when you tackle your number one objective for four straight hours straight out of the gate? This simple practice sets up the rest of my day with an enormous sense of accomplishment because I’ve already put a serious dent in my most important work.

Doing my last check at 4:30 pm ensures last-minute requests are still handled before I shut down for the day, and it clears the decks for the next morning. It guarantees I’m not stewing over loose ends come dinner time because everything has already been dealt with. My mind is clear for doing other stuff like playing with my son.

2. Things that go ‘ping!’

I hate being pinged. I’m a reasonably intelligent and productive person. I want to do great work. I want that work to amaze and delight the people who pay me. The last thing I need is a machine pinging me every few minutes saying, “Look over here!” No thanks.

So there are no alerts, notifications or other ding-dings on my devices, except for SMS. I’ve got work to do.

3. My phone is for phone calls.

Okay, I use my phone for a billion other things, but email’s not one of them. Distraction is the GREATEST enemy of deep work. Multi-tasking is a myth. If you try to chase two rabbits, you end up with no rabbits. And if you allow your phone to push emails to you, you’re effectively breaking rules one, two and three.

If you need to reach me urgently, my phone still accepts phone calls.

4. I Action EVERY Email

When I check my mail, I sort them first by Subject. That way, the crap is easy to spot and delete. See ya! Then, I sort them by Sender. Important people (clients, partners and suppliers – in that order) get my attention first. With each email I either:

  1. Respond and file
  2. Delegate, schedule a follow-up, and file
  3. Forward, schedule a follow-up, and file
  4. Delete

With those I delegate or forward, I also schedule a follow-up in my diary so the interested parties aren’t left hanging. As for filing, I’ve created a set of folders and sub-folders where everything I’ve dealt with lives. Nothing stays in my inbox. I deal with it, then I file it.

Finally, I sort the remaining items by Date Sent so I can address them in the order they left the sender’s keyboard. This is fair, I think. These are dealt with in the same way as the others – respond, delegate, forward or delete. Once they’re done, my inbox is empty.

5. Be clear and unambiguous.

Email is not the place for back and forth communication. Neither is SMS. Often, the quickest way to resolve an issue is over the phone with a bit of rapid-fire discussion. Likewise, emails shouldn’t be open-ended. If someone wants a meeting, I suggest two or three times on two or three different days. That way, they can pick one, and we’re done. Also, if a question has a few possible answers and I think I know what they’ll be, I’ll mention all of them and ask them to choose. Wherever possible, I’m seeking a yes or a no – not another three questions.

With everything I tackle, I’m always thinking of three things:

  1. What’s the outcome I seek?
  2. What is the most productive thing I can do towards that objective right now?
  3. Does this lead me closer to the life I want or drag me further away from it?

Your time is valuable beyond measure, and to surrender control of it to something as innocuous as email is an affront to your existence. Too heavy? I don’t think so. I don’t know about you, but I believe I’ll only get one shot at life, so I’ll be damned if I’ll squander a minute of it doing things that don’t move the game forward in a meaningful way.

The bottom line is, once you control your inbox, almost every other area of your life will improve. It’s that important.

MSP Technology

Distributed Access Architecture = Less Cable, Faster Data

The constant demand within networks is for more speed. High-quality video, conferencing, and big data need lots of bandwidth.

Cable providers need to push the speed limit while serving more customers, but they face constraints. The longer the distance is from the provider’s equipment to the customer’s cable modem, the more noise there is on the channel, and the more signal strength is needed. Distributed Access Architecture is the solution to the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth.

Moving the Starting Point

Brute-force approaches like more voltage don’t work very well. A better way to improve the signal is to move its starting point closer to the customer. This doesn’t require moving the central office and all its equipment. All that’s needed is to move the point that generates the cable signal. The headend, as it’s called, stays at a data centre and uses long-distance Ethernet to communicate with the signal generator. This is called Distributed Access Architecture (DAA).

The device that generates the cable signal is called a Remote PHY (physical) or Remote MAC/PHY node, depending on how much of the logic is moved out of the headend. DAAs currently being deployed use Remote PHY since its specifications are more mature.

The Remote PHY node could be in an office building, in a small local building, or even on a utility pole. It’s close to a small group of customers, so it has more bandwidth per customer to work with. Another benefit of Remote PHY is that it allows more cable ports than can fit on one machine at the headend.

The devices are compatible with existing cable modems, but taking advantage of the higher speeds requires getting an upgraded modem that supports the newest protocols. The newest-generation protocol, called DOCSIS 3.1, supports up to 10 Gbps downstream and 1 Gbps upstream.

A Two-Way Information Highway

Those speeds are impressive, but more will come. Internet connections are usually asymmetrical; you can download faster than you can upload. The next generation of DOCSIS 3.1 will change this and allow 10 Gbps in both directions, at the same time. It’s still a work in progress but should be available in some areas soon. It builds on DAA since shorter connections allow more speed both ways. It works best with hybrid fibre-coax (HFC) cables, which provide more speed than regular coax.

Having top speed in both directions is valuable for SD-WAN architecture, which combines remote locations over the Internet into a single, private business network. It’s one of the greatest advantages of distributed access architecture. Within a business’s network, there’s no clear upstream or downstream direction. For top-quality video conferencing and connection to servers, speed in both directions is necessary.

What it Means for Business IT

The transition to Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) is a gradual one. It means big changes for cable providers since they have to deploy and maintain equipment miles away from the main office. The change is definitely coming, though.

Greater speed and symmetric full-duplex access open many opportunities to businesses. Faster connections allow tighter integration with cloud services. Taking full advantage of the service does require a local network that can keep up, as well as a cable modem that handles the high-speed connection. Without a local network upgrade, the cable upgrade may not show any significant advantage.

Increased speeds will let cable stay competitive. Other alternatives, such as direct fibre to the building, are expensive to set up. On the other hand, they’re available now, while local availability of DAA may be years away in many places. The smart thing to do is to look into the cable company’s plans for upgrading and compare them against the feasibility of alternative connections.

Upgrading your network requires considering every part of it so that you don’t squander money on speed at one point while leaving bottlenecks in other parts.

Greater Efficiency is Available Right Now

It’s all part of the changing landscape of MSPs and IT departments in data-heavy businesses. And while hardware systems continue to improve, ServiceTree delivers immediate gains to businesses on existing architecture with its intelligent rostering and guided problem-solving technology. Because while speedy networks are a good thing (maybe even a must-have), they won’t do much for the efficiency of your tech support team. That’s where an intelligent PSA solution like ServiceTree comes in.

Talk to us about how we can improve your business today while remaining competitive well into the future.