Handling email on business trips

As I mentioned before, I was touring Poland, talking about productivity and localized versions of Nozbe... and this meant a very hectic day, always traveling (usually by train) and checking in and checking out of hotels. And lots of after-parties with local friends. This all meant less productive work and a huge email backlog. How did I handle email during my business trips? Here goes:
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1. Always process to ZERO

I always process my inbox to zero. Every day. If I can reply to something in less than 2 minutes, I do it right away and if I need more time for an email, I move it to my [REPLY] folder. If you want to learn more about my email system, watch this short 2-minute video.

2. Clean the REPLY folder selectively

The problem is that when you're on a business trip, you might not have time to reply to each and every email in your REPLY folder by the end of the day or by the beginning of the next day, so you should clean this folder selectively:

2a) reply to your co-workers as soon as possible

I just know I need to reply to my team member as soon as I can - I don't want to keep them waiting. So I just filter out their messages from my REPLY folder and try to respond to my co-workers the same day or the next day at the latest. They know I'm on a business trip but nonetheless I want to be responsive.

2b) keep the ball moving

If you see emails from other parties in the REPLY folder that are not your co-workers but you know they are waiting for your decision to be able to move their stuff forward, reply to these emails, too. You don't want to stall the ball, you want to keep the ball in motion. I work with many 3rd parties and I failed several times on moving the ball forward and it was a bad mistake. Don't make it, keep people moving. Reply.

3) Ignore the rest of REPLY folder... for now

Yes, keep your mind sane and ignore rest of the REPLY folder, you'll clean it up once you get back home to your normal office hours. These emails require your response but I'm sure the recipients will understand you were on a business trip and you couldn't get back to them faster. Most of my recipients did understand it and I'm happy they did. I could enjoy my business trip better.

How to deal with the piled-up email in the REPLY folder after you've come back home?

Well, process it to zero :-) OK, it's not that easy, we'll talk about it in the next blog post.
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Wednesday, July 7, 2010 (business,email,productivity)