I am a sucker for simplicity and shortcuts, so I wasted no time clicking on this headline: “How to Go From Working 60 Hours a Week to 40 By Sending Two Emails a Week!”
Reduce my workweek by one-third? Simply by hitting the “send” button twice? Count me in.
And here are the two magic e-missives, courtesy of Robbie Abed, business writer and author of Fire Me, I Beg You:
- Email #1: What you plan on getting done this week.
- Email #2: What you actually got done this week.
The first thing you will notice is that both emails are meant for your boss or supervisor. This poses an obvious problem for solos and lawyers without managers: who gets the emails? The answer: send them to yourself.
A trickier problem is how to actually convert the emails into 20 fewer work-hours every week. The answer: the old-fashioned way – through planning, execution and follow-up.
Email #1: My Plan For The Week
The first email – to be sent first thing Monday morning – is really just a weekly to-do list on steroids.
That’s not a bad thing. The reason most to-do lists fail is they are too easy to create yet too hard to complete. You can dash off a lengthy list in no time. You can then delude yourself into thinking you have actually accomplished something.
Abed solves this problem with a beefed-up list that focuses on specific activities and priorities. Here is his Sample Email #1:
Planned Major Activities for the week
1) Complete project charter for X Project
2) Finish the financial analysis report that was started last week
3) Kick off Project X – requires planning and prep documentation creation. Scheduled for Thursday.
Open Items that I will Look Into, but won’t get finished this week
1) Coordinate activities for year-end financial close
2) Research Y product for our shared service team
Let me know if you have any comments. Thank you!
Notice that this sample email doesn’t bite off too much. It sticks to a few specified Planned Activities and Open Items.
It also sets reasonable expectations. The second paragraph makes it clear that two Open Items will be worked on during the week but won’t be completed by Friday. This is key. Nothing is more demoralizing than cramming a to-do list with tasks that can’t possibly be accomplished in the designated period. These tasks might still belong on the list – so they don’t fall through the cracks and get forgotten – but the horizon for completion should be extended into the future.
Email #2 on Friday: What I Got Done This Week
The second email is a reality check:
Completed Major Activities this week
- Completed X Report
- Started the planning for the big project
- Finished the month-end analysis and sent to financial controller for review
- Created a first draft of the project charter, currently being reviewed by Project Manager Z
- I have some questions about the start date of Y Project, but should get confirmation by Tuesday morning
- We need X Report signed off by EOD next Wednesday. Can you follow up with Jane to get this signed off?
That is all for now. Have a great weekend.
As with Email #1, this one is nice and simple. And yet it accomplishes a number of things.
It is a reality check. It provides closure for the week. It addresses what actually got done. It prioritizes work by starting with completed matters and ending with open items.
You might already be using a system like Abed recommends. If not, you might try adopting his framework and tweaking it to suit your needs. At the very least you will start your week with a plan and end it with a process.
After that, the only email that might be needed is one that says: Good job!
Source: Robbie Abed – Independent Project Manager – author of Fire Me, I Beg You!
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.