Best way to stay on top of email?
Oh email! Everyone loves to hate email. My system isn’t all that complicated to be honest. I just have some basic ground rules. Firstly, you need to be proactive with checking your email periodically. Secondly, when you’re checking it, be diligent with the way you’re triaging things.
My inbox has four groups: new emails, emails that I need to respond to, emails that I need to reference later, and pretty much everything else. I also use a ton of labels and am liberal with my use of the “skip the inbox” option. It means that when I check my emails, I can efficiently go through everything in a very systematic way.
But outside of the time that you’re checking your email, I think that it’s incredibly important to just turn off your push notifications for them. Give yourself the opportunity to focus on the task at hand. There’s a big difference between things that you need to respond to in a time sensitive manner, and the things that you need to respond to immediately, and rarely does the latter come up. If it really is that important, people will get in touch with you in other ways. Otherwise, the time sensitive things will be addressed when you check your email periodically through the day.
The emails will be there when you’re ready for them. But while you’re focused on doing something else, like working or having a conversation with somebody, having an email light up your screen and distract you serves no real value. That’s my whole philosophy when it comes to email.
Best career advice you've ever received?
I think the best career advice I’ve ever gotten is a combination of “let it be” and “don’t get comfortable”. “Let it be” comes from my dad, naturally in reference to the Beatles song. What it speaks to is the idea of letting things go that are out of your control. Don’t waste energy dwelling on things that you don’t have the opportunity to impact. Instead, accept those things as limitations or parameters and focus on things that you actually can affect. That’s how you’re going be able to spend your time most resourcefully.
The other piece of advice is “don’t get comfortable”. It’s something my brother once said to me late one evening when I was picking him up from the subway station. It was at a time when I was about a year out of University and doing freelance work. He asked me how things were going and I told him they were fine and that I was growing comfortable with freelance work. He looked at me and said: “Don’t get comfortable. You have the rest of your life after 40 to be comfortable.” That phrase has always stuck with me as a reminder that occasionally, you just need to stir things up, disrupt your world, and just do something that scares you. And if you find yourself too comfortable, you’re really not growing, and you’re really not learning, and a little bit of discomfort is sometimes exactly what you need.
Who would you want to see featured on Ways We Work?
Satish Kanwar. He was not only my partner in crime at Jet Cooper, but he’s also an incredibly successful and well-recognized individual in many other circles. To me he portrays the best marriage of a generalist and an expert that I’ve ever come across. I just have a ton of respect and admiration for his ability to be successful in literally any environment, whether it’s new or familiar to him. He’s currently the Director of Product at Shopify so I’m super thankful that I still get to work alongside him and be inspired by him on a daily basis. I think a ton of people would find a lot of value in getting the behind-the-scenes look at how he works and what makes him tick.