How I deal with email

I get a lot of emails on a daily basis – on average around 100 per day. Nowhere near as many as some of the people I work with at Microsoft, but a fair few. Even though we use Lync / Skype for Business heavily at Paradyne and are also using Yammer for more and more conversations both internally and externally – there is still a lot of email going through my mailbox.

This inspiration for this post came from Jeremy Thake’s post about the how he handles email.

While I actually have 4 mailboxes configured within Outlook (personal, Paradyne, Xstran, Microsoft) and my phone for this blog post I’m going to focus on Paradyne as that is my most active. I generally have Outlook open on a dedicated screen when I’m at my workstation however there are many times during the day when I minimise it or am offline.

I have tried the Clutter feature of Exchange Online when it was released but unfortunately it did very little for me so I went back to my Outlook rules.

In Jeremy’s post (and others linked from it) they have a number of rules set up to filter out *everything* and at the end of the day everybody works different. My setup is simple yet prioritised:

  • Email from anyone with an email address goes into my Inbox
  • Any newsletter, mailing list, email from Yammer, or anything generic goes into the “aGENERIC” folder
  • Anything from a person that isn’t a Paradyne colleague goes into the “aaNew” folder

Effectively this means that my team at Paradyne get priority, any other human being goes after, and the newsletters/etc. are bottom of the list. One of the major benefits of this I’ve found (and part of the reason I did it in the first place) is that the Paradyne mailbox tile on my phone only shows the count of emails in my Inbox – not the total amount of emails that have come through since the last time I checked.

Now while I always strive to achieve Inbox Zero I am somewhat accepting of the fact that it’s not always possible (at time of writing I have 7 in my Inbox (mainly from me), 15 in aaNew, and 5 in aGENERIC).

What I do ensure is that I read every single email that comes in. If I can address it I do it on the spot. If I can’t it remains in my inbox as read until it is actioned. A folder in bold makes me anxious as it means there’s something for me that I haven’t seen yet.

So there you have it. Nothing fancy or amazing. No machine learning. Just a bit of simple filing to cut down on the noise of what I need to respond to.

Reflecting on 5 years of Paradyne

It was 5 years ago today that Paradyne Pty Ltd was registered as a company. The name was born out of the terms “paradigm shift” and “dynamic” – two key terms which I felt encompassed what lay ahead with the changing IT landscape.

Back then I was an idealistic technically-minded person who had limited business experience, but a lot of ideas about how things “should” be done.

I started Paradyne as an equal partnership with a long-time friend who I had worked with a number of times previously and built a close friendship on. Just over a year later my friend chose to exit the business as our visions were no longer aligned. Unfortunately in that separation I also lost a good friend. While it was an amicable separation we have never spoken again – something I will forever carry as one of (many) costs of starting a business.

Over the past 5 years Paradyne has had its ups and downs. It’s come close to the brink of closing its doors a couple of times but conversely had its high times when I felt like Scrooge McDuck swimming through money in his safe. There’s been moments of extreme stress and moments of pure elation.

One thing I’m proud of is the name and reputation Paradyne has built. We are well regarded within the halls of Microsoft and Telstra, and have also reached into a number of other vendors and partners.

The first time I heard that someone didn’t like us because we kept dominating the Office 365 business and limelight I smiled because it meant we were a force to be reckoned with.

While I’m not writing this blog post from the roof of my superyacht (maybe at 10 years) we have enjoyed a number of successes. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done and the impact we’ve made both to the organisations we’ve worked with as well as the people within them.

I don’t want to waffle on much more so I thought I’d finish up with a list of my business-related top 5 mistakes and challenges as well as wins and accomplishments.

Mistakes & challenges:

  • Hiring the wrong people
  • Staying too cheap for too long
  • Not getting external guidance & mentorship early on
  • Spreading myself too thin
  • Acting without thinking

Wins & accomplishments:

  • Hiring the right people
  • Getting in first on a number of things and being remembered for it. Nobody remembers second (except Buzz Aldrin).
  • Building a business that allows our staff and our customers to work from anywhere, and put family first
  • Being awarded Microsoft Office 365 Most Valuable Professional for the last 4 years
  • Working with some amazing partners and individuals who have driven me to do better

Both of those lists could go on for pages. One of the things I’ve learnt from running a business for the past 5 years is that no matter how much you think you’ve learnt or perfected things, there’s always lessons to be learnt and improvements to be made.

The landscape has changed. When Paradyne started we were an engineering focussed organisation and we built our brand and messaging around it. Nowadays we find ourselves more being an instrument of change – not just to technology but to the way people work and interact with each other.

While the technology continues to evolve, so must we. As people, as a business, as humans we have come a long way in the last 5 years. I am truly excited to see where the next 5 years takes us and what lies ahead.

To infinity… and beyond!