Lately things have been a little crazy at work. Between a fair amount of vacations (some planned, some not) and a never ending stream of project work, my days have been pretty much filled to capacity. I’m a guy who prides himself on being efficient and squeezing the most out of my time, but damn, the difficulty of getting everything done has risen to a new level.
One of the most challenging aspects has been the sheer volume of requests that come in, requiring some form of response / work. Mind you, it’s not that I am stressing out because I can’t find the time to do the work; no, it’s become stressful just taking the time to explain to people that I can’t do the work! My management is excellent at backing us when we tell our business that a given request / project needs to wait or will take an extended period of time, but that doesn’t avoid the necessity of managing a constant stream of incoming and outgoing communications.
What I’d really like to do is put up an auto-responder that would sound something like this:
“Hello, thank you for e-mailing me. Please be aware that due to a sizeable project load, I will not have sufficient time to take on any additional ad-hoc requests for the next month. If your e-mail is regarding an urgent matter that cannot wait (Severity 1 / 1.5 critical outages), please call my extension to discuss. If your e-mail is regarding an existing project, don’t worry, I will respond to you in the next 24 hours. Otherwise, please be aware that it may be an extended period of time before I respond. Thank you for your understanding.”
A little extreme? Yes, I’ll admit that. But seriously, I can’t begin to think how much more productive I would be if I could eliminate this needless “Hi So and So, thanks but I won’t be able to do that for at least a month.”
Given that a proposal to my boss to implement this would likely be met with hysterical laughter (followed by one of those glowering, “Are you serious” looks), here’s some possible alternatives I’m considering, as a kind of stop gap measure if you will:
- E-mail (Outlook, GMail, all of the above) is closed, not minimized, except for a once per hour check to process incoming items. Every hour my inbox needs to be cleared and all e-mails either placed in the “Needs Reply” folder, the “Reference” folder, or logged as an to-do in Remember The Milk. Truth be told I’m just not doing well at ignoring checking e-mail with Outlook only minimized, despite turning off those annoying pop-up notices.
- Dedicate a period of the day to responding to e-mails, outside of which only critical issues would be answered. I’m thinking 1.5 hours in the afternoon would be sufficient.
- Put up an auto-responder for any e-mails marked urgent with the following:”Hello, thank you for e-mail me. Because your e-mail was marked as urgent, you are receiving this automated response to inform you that I only check e-mail approximately once every hour, and respond to the majority of e-mails once daily at (insert chosen time here). If you are reporting a critical (Severity 1 / 1.5) issue, or feel you need a response before the time noted above, please call me directly at extension xxxx, or call my team line at xxxx. Thank you.”
What do you think? Still too extreme?