Becoming More Efficient in the Office

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    • 00:07

      KATHERINE MOUNT: Increasing your productivitydoesn't always come down to implementinga system like the Urgent/Important matrixor developing a more accurate schedule.Sometimes, the biggest time gainscome from simply getting more efficient at the tasksyou do every day.This chapter we'll look at the number of ways

    • 00:28

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: to facilitate the efficient use of our time at work.Implementing the techniques we've learned in the coursewill require using office tools effectively and practicingsolid management skills.In my training simulations on workplace behavior,I cover difficult conversations, coaching,giving feedback, influencing colleagues, and negotiating.

    • 00:50

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Good time management requires sharpening all of these tools.Time management requires handling incoming assignmentsgracefully and collaborating effectively.We can all benefit from refreshing our skillsin some of the simplest areas, such as emailing, filing,and organizing documents.

    • 01:10

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: In chapter three we discussed distractions.I'm sure that you'll be able to identify distractions thatare specific to your workplace.You may even have a few distractions bothering youright now-- the temptation to chat to colleagues,for example.Good time management doesn't meanyou have to become an anti-social robot.

    • 01:32

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: But you do have to learn to be clear with yourself and othersabout when is focused work time and whenyou are available to chat.In chapter four we spoke about delegation.Micromanagement is not good delegation.And remember that delegation is a two-way street.

    • 01:52

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Being effective here will require peopleskills-- learning how to say no to otherswhen you're too busy to help them.There's also the temptation of stretching your scheduleby doing a few things at once.Is multitasking a good way to save time?We'll look at the ways multitaskingcan adversely affect your work and how to make it effective

    • 02:15

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: when it's absolutely necessary.We're going to discuss keeping on top of your training needs,as that can be a great time saver.And finally, we'll take a look at howto deal with unforeseen circumstances and delaysthat, whether we like to not, are bound to reartheir heads at some point.

    • 02:36

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: We'll begin with what is probably the most common officetool for many of us, email.Email is a hot topic within time management.We're all bombarded with email correspondence.And unless you've been extremely careful,much of this correspondence is actually unsolicited marketing.

    • 02:59

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: It can take a significant portionof your time just clearing the decks,so only the important mail remains.And even then, it's not uncommon to find yourselfsnowed under and responding for much of the daywhilst your goals and important activities are left to rot.Like other tasks, you should set aside specific time

    • 03:21

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: to devote to emails.How much time you devote to emailsand when is completely up to you.Your role may require swiftly responding to clients.If that's the case, unexpected client emailsare going to fall directly into your urgent and importantinbox.But those messages that don't require

    • 03:42

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: an instant lengthy response, there'splenty we can do to become more efficient.[BECOMING EMAIL EFFICIENT]Make a decision about how often to check your email.Everybody's role is different and requires a different levelof availability.I'm not going to dictate an ideal to you here--the important thing is that you decide what is best for you.

    • 04:06

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Have a plan.Do not allow email to control you.You can spend all day at it if you don't set some boundaries.Not every email is urgent and important.Treat emails as you would other tasks-- prioritize and schedulethem appropriately.

    • 04:29

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Now let's have a look at how one person mightdecide to tackle their mail.If this example seems unrealistic to you,adapt the timings to your own requirements.[TIMOTHY'S EMAIL PLAN]Let's say Timothy makes a decisionto only deal with his email at five specific times-- at 9:00AM first thing for half an hour to check the overnight activity

    • 04:52

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: and plan the day; at 11:00 AM, a quick scan to clear the inboxand pick up anything urgent; at 1:00 PM, a check before lunchto draft a few urgent responses; at 3:00 PM,a mid-afternoon scan to catch anything urgent; and at 5:00

    • 05:13

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: PM, using a half hour at the end of the day to writethe remaining longer responses.But what if Timothy gets an email thatneeds more than 30 minutes of his time?What if he finds something major has come in during oneof his 10 minute scans?These are very realistic possibilities.And this is where categorizing your emails is important.

    • 05:38

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Categorizing your emails is a wayto place them into a schedule and take control.It's also a way to achieve the paradise of inbox zero.The key to categorizing is makingthat decision right away-- scan the emails you've received,delete the irrelevant ones, and file

    • 05:60

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: the rest in action or non-action folders immediately.The specific categories are up to you.For example, you might create action foldersby priority level or by deadline.Emails you don't plan to answer get immediatelytrashed or archived.Make a decision right away.

    • 06:23

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Follow David Allen's two minute rule.Mr Allen is the best selling authorof Getting Things Done, a fantastic book on productivity.The two minute cutoff states that if youcan respond to something within two minutesthen do so immediately.This applies to emails, but also to other actions as well,

    • 06:44

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: by the way.It would take more than two minutes of your timeto read, file, prioritize, and schedule a very short response.Complete the action and move on.If the email will take longer than two minutes,file it in the appropriate place to deal with later.

    • 07:05

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: With this method, you can move swiftly through a full inbox.And if you use this process regularly,you'll prevent your emails from getting ahead of you.Now hold on, you might be thinking-- I haven't actuallyresponded to the majority of emails,so how am I saving time?The answer is in the bigger picture here.

    • 07:26

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: As you're only checking your emails a controlled numberof times in the day, you're keepingyour flow and your focus going.You're relieving stress by taking control and notconstantly reacting or having your workload dictatedby others.Rather than seeing email, becauseof its immediate nature, as a task thatis urgent to deal with, you're getting some perspective

    • 07:49

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: on the content of each correspondenceand treating it according to the importance in your schedule.You're putting each item in its correct priority placement,and not wasting time on less urgent or important activitiesat the expense of other work.Once you've been through your inbox with this process,

    • 08:11

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: it becomes easy to maintain.You'll just have a few minutes of sorting to doeach time you scan your inbox.In you longer email sessions, as we saw in Timothy's exampleschedule, come back to respond to the emails you'vesorted in order of priority.Let's say you have an email folder marked

    • 08:32

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: urgent and important, and it may contain45 minutes worth of action.Enter an email task into your to-do list--respond to emails in the urgent and important folder--and tackle those messages one by one.If you currently spend a significant amount of time

    • 08:53

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: dealing with email, then using these techniqueswill make a big difference.It could also be worth your while considering an appor email client to assist you.We'll discuss software tools in more detail in chapter six.What about that non-action folder?I'm not just talking about marketing emails

    • 09:14

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: here-- some activities, email or otherwise,simply aren't worth your time.With the limited resources you have,it's more productive for you to try and respondto every single email, every favor requested by a colleague,or even every single task set by your boss.So in our next section, we'll have a look at saying no.

    • 09:39

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: We discussed delegating earlier.And without a doubt, you will notbe the only person who'll be doing this.There are bound to be occasions when people come to youand ask you to help them out.Sometimes the task might offer an opportunity thatappeals to one of your goals.Other times, it's only adding urgent but unimportant work

    • 10:00

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: to your to-do list-- not ideal.If the new task will overload you,or if it would be better dealt with by someonewith the appropriate skills, you'llwant to say no in the most tactful way possible.When people are pushed for time and need your help,they can become very persuasive.

    • 10:22

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: If you're unsure of the benefit of taking on the new work,say you'll look at it and respond within a stated timeframe.You then have the space to analyze the benefitsand make a decision.All of a sudden you'll find you're someone's new bestfriend, the very best in the office, a real team player.

    • 10:43

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Buttering up aside, is it worth disrupting your schedule?Let the person know politely and firmly that you simplydon't have the time.Respond quickly so you don't delay their work.If you can, propose someone else whocan help or let them know about a future time

    • 11:04

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: when you might be free.But don't be afraid to set boundaries and stick to them.A particularly tricky scenario occurswhen your manager or someone else most seniorasks you to take something on.Unless it's absolutely a requirement of your jobor there is no alternative, the same rules apply.

    • 11:26

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: If you're not the best person to take it on,point out the reasons why and who would be better.Hopefully, you've kept your eyes and ears openregarding other people's skills.Look at the task and break it down into actions, resources,and time required.Talk your superior through how you

    • 11:47

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: would have to rearrange your scheduleand what other work would suffer were you to do that.The more organized and systematic your breakdown,the more persuasive you'll be.So follow your time management techniques.What you're doing is helping your managergo through the same delegation analysis

    • 12:07

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: you would use if the task were your own to assign.Sometimes an order is an order.But it's worth having the discussion.At least your manager knows the constraintsyou're working under.We can also be guilty of overloading ourselves.Sometimes we let our to-do list get out of hand.

    • 12:29

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: There's just no way we're going to finish everythingwe've set out to do in time.Perhaps this problem becomes glaringly obviouswhen we're trying to fit our to-do list into a schedule.This is when we have to learn to say no to ourselves.With all of our tasks in priority order,it's fairly straightforward to knock off the last ones,

    • 12:52

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: as many as are necessary to keep our workloadmanageable and realistic.But don't knock them often indefinitely.If they're important to you, then youmay be able to fit them in further along the lineas more time becomes available or as they move upthe scale of priority.You may like to create a list or a folder for these tasks--

    • 13:13

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: a wish list or when I have time folder.Refer back to them on occasion to seeif their status has gone up and whether now is the timeto bring them into play.Being realistic about your time constraintsis vital to smooth, effective, and stress-freetime management.Good estimates of time are needed.

    • 13:35

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: And your scheduling should take into accountall possible demands on your time.One very common hazard is a poor filing system, or indeedno system at all.Some of us have piles of unorganized paperworklying around.Even if you do have a failing system for finished projects,

    • 13:57

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: you may still keep current paperwork on your deskor in drawers with no discernible method of findinganything.So you receive a phone call from financeand they need to know how many hours were loggedon the annual report project.You were organized and tracked this information.It's on a sheet somewhere.

    • 14:17

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: But, as it hasn't been reported yet to finance,you haven't filed it in the right folder.Now you spend the next 10 minutes searching through pilesto locate it, 10 minutes of your valuable time.Your time is precious.Setting up efficient physical and computer filing systems

    • 14:39

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: is a time investment initially, but you'llkeep seeing the benefits for a long, long time.One of the first things you shoulddo after watching this course is to take an hour or soto get an efficient filing system set up.You'll only need to do this once,although you may want to set aside a day or two every yearto reorganize all your papers and archive old work.

    • 15:03

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: As well as the time spent on locating items,a poor filing system will add to your pressure and frustration.If your system is efficient and you'reable to lay your hands on any necessary item in moments,then you'll be spared all that stress.You should also consider the possibilitythat you may need to find a file at some pointwhen you're off-site or away from your desk.

    • 15:25

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: It may be necessary to tell someone elsehow to find something.If your system is clear, then this will be straightforward.Appearances matter.You may think your cluttered desk says mad genius,but to a lot of people it just says lazy.

    • 15:46

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Here are a few tips for getting a system set up.[ORGANIZING DOCUMENTS]First, make enough space.It can be difficult to sift through foldersthat are crammed together overflowing with paperwork.Clear some space on your desk or on your shelvesso your files are easy to see and browse through.

    • 16:06

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Buy enough trays, folders, or devicesso that you have all the space you need.Have a separate storage area for a long-term archivewith as much space as you need.When files pass their usefulness but still need to be kept,you can move them out and free space for other things.

    • 16:27

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Your filing system should be focused around action itemsthat you'll need in the near future.Scan documents if hard copies are not essential.This will free up more space.Just make sure you have a parallel virtual file systemthat's just as organized.

    • 16:48

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: As we suggested earlier with emails,create action folders and non-action folders.Your action item should correspondwith whatever form of priority you've chosen to use.I'd suggest a general inbox where items start.Set time aside to manage your document inbox just like youwould your email inbox.

    • 17:10

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Make quick decisions on each itemand decide if it should go in a high priorityfolder for immediate response or a folder to think about data.Archived items can be sorted by date and project.You can then be sure that your desk is alwaysfree of paperwork and you know exactly whereto find anything current.

    • 17:32

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Create enough folders so that none is overflowing.If you find one is too full, thinkof another way to categorize so that youcan split those contents.Just make sure the new folder isn't purely arbitrary.Give folders a descriptive name thattells you what to do with the documents inside--

    • 17:53

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: handle today, decide this week, read this weekend.Label clearly, and make sure those labels stay on.When creating a virtual filing system on your computer,you have a little more flexibility.You have practically unlimited spaceand can be as precise as you like with your titles.

    • 18:16

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: I would suggest that you keep everything conciseand that you keep your funneling steps to a minimum.So don't create 50 subfolders, one after the other,as you're just making things harder to find.Order items in the way that you would like to search,be that by priority, by projects,by deadline, or any other method that is useful for you.

    • 18:37

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: You should try to mirror your hard copy system as much aspossible so you get into the habit of filing documentsthe same way each time.Take advantage of your computer's search and sortingtools.Filing, emailing, delegating, keeping your to-do list

    • 18:57

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: up-to-date-- it's a lot to manage.At some point we've all tried to save timeby doing two things at once.Turns out, this isn't always a good idea.According to Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass, and AnthonyWagner, researchers at Stanford University,consuming multiple streams of information

    • 19:20

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: at once hurts our ability to focus on any individual stream.It turns out that multitaskers are more easily distractedand fail to perform at the same levelas people who focus on one thing at a time.For the majority of us, keeping too many balls up in the airat once means that we are likely to drop one

    • 19:43

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: or that they just aren't going as high as they otherwisewould.Our brains are great at doing two things at oncewhen one of the tasks is mindless--talking while driving or walking while chewing gum.But multitasking at work usually meansthat we're holding two or more complicated tasks

    • 20:03

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: in the forefront of our minds at any given moment,often whilst also listening to musicand scanning our email inbox for updates.This makes it difficult to concentrate fullyon any one task.Have you ever found yourself frustratedthat you can't immediately grasp something that should be fairlystraightforward for you or making sloppy mistakes

    • 20:26

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: you should have caught?The likelihood is that you're thinkingof too many things at once.And that pressure leads to stress and a loss of focus.The reason we've not touched on multitasking upto this point in our course is that to beas efficient as possible, with most complex tasks you'llget the best results by tackling one thing at a time

    • 20:49

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: without interruption.Some of you may now be thinking, but I have no choice.Perhaps you need to be on the other endof the phone for clients at all times,even when you're immersed in a piece of work.If that or something similar is the case,there are a few tricks you can try to minimizethe downsides of multitasking.

    • 21:11

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: [TACKLING THE MULTITASKING CHALLENGE]Assess your days to see when the peak and low timesare for interruptions.During the peak times, try to schedulemore mundane and easy tasks that don'trequire a high level of focus.If you can find some low times, use

    • 21:32

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: these to schedule your tasks thatrequire lots of concentration.This may affect you order of priority,but the planning is worthwhile for the higher level of focusyou can attain.If there are no low times, then you will unfortunatelyhave to make the best of it.

    • 21:52

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: At the very least, be aware of the multitasking challengeand allow a little extra time for every task.Remember, quality is just as important as speed.Give yourself the room to refocusfollowing any interruptions.If your multitasking is literallyrunning two tasks or activities simultaneously,

    • 22:13

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: try to keep them distinct.Every time you switch back and forth between tasks,you'll cause the little bit of inefficient switching coststo creep in.Try to work in as large chunks as you canand switch between tasks only when necessary.

    • 22:34

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: A common components of performance reviewsis a conversation about development.Very often, our managers will send us awaywith some idea of what we will be trained on next.You may very well have had a conversationabout time management training before you started this course.[TRAINING CONSIDERATIONS]Whether or not you have regular performance reviews,

    • 22:57

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: I would advise you to set aside time periodicallyto evaluate your skills and consider further training.Recognizing gaps in our own skills can be a challenge,but you're the only person who is partyto every moment of your work.You are best placed to spot these gaps.

    • 23:18

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: It's important to be honest with yourself.If you see a colleague completing the same taskmore quickly or to a higher standard, don't be downhearted.Make this a development goal and aim to train yourself up.Keep an eye out for how other people arefulfilling similar tasks.Check on the internet or in industry publications

    • 23:41

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: for alternative processes that might work well for you.And if you're timing your tasks and noticingthat certain activities are particularly slow,be open to the possibility that you could improve your skillsthrough training.It's fairly obvious, but worth reminding ourselves,how much of a difference it can make to your time usage

    • 24:03

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: if you learn a new skill.In most jobs you repeat similar tasks on every project.Many industries have experts who do nothing but think about waysto make these individual tasks more efficient.New tools and new ways of working will emerge.But most jobs don't mandate continuing education.

    • 24:26

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: If you identify an interesting new development,consider investing in yourself and procuring some training.Nonspecific soft skills training is a not-so-obvious wayof improving your time efficiency.Communication is a skill-- we all do it

    • 24:47

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: and we all could develop the skill further.Some of us are probably too chattyand spend too much time on niceties.Others are probably too abrupt, putting colleagues off.Your working relationships are important,but you'll face a constant struggle between collaboration

    • 25:07

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: and inefficiency.It's an interesting experiment to timehow long we spend talking to peopleor having meetings which doesn't necessarilyachieve our objectives and very often fluff around the point.Soft skills training can help you develop your communicationskills to keep your bonds with colleagueshealthy whilst reducing wasted time.

    • 25:32

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: So far in the course, we've made detailed plansand set out thorough schedules full of precise information.We've mostly worked under the assumptionthat you'll be able to predict your next few weeks of workaccurately.In the real world, you'll find that your ideas changeor that other factors come into playthat would've affected your original planning

    • 25:54

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: had you known about them in advance.You'll need to learn to remain as flexible as possiblein responding to new information.We already discussed allowing extra timewithin your schedule for certain thingsthat should give you a smoother run-- breaks, internet usage,emails, social time.

    • 26:15

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: [DEALING WITH THE UNPREDICTABLE]You should also leave some time per dayfor unforeseen circumstances.This can be really valuable if something occursand you need to push your work back.It allows you that flexibility on a daily basisto take on a worthwhile side project,attend a last minute meeting, or spend 10 minutes networking

    • 26:36

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: without affecting your capability to fulfillyour scheduled tasks.If a new activity is going to take up more timethen you've allotted, then you'llneed to pick apart your schedule and rework it.Go back to your priorities and input anything extraor take away unnecessary items.

    • 26:56

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Be sure to know the time any new work will take.Revisit dependencies and sequence everything again.Check that your schedule and available working timesare still accurate.Finally, put the new sequence into your schedule.This process will go much more quickly if you have

    • 27:17

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: a well-organized to-do list.With the best will in the world, wewill occasionally find that a piece of work must be delayed.Perhaps the new information that youhave means completely reworking everything you've done so farand there simply isn't enough timeto get it in by the deadline.

    • 27:38

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Perhaps new requests have come in and changedthe scope of your work.Perhaps someone whose input you were relying onhas fallen sick.For whatever reason, the delay needs to be dealt with.If any piece of work you have is particularly time critical,then there are a number of thingsyou can do in the planning stage to mitigate

    • 27:59

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: against these possibilities.Leave a buffer by setting a final deadline a few days aheadof when the work must be delivered.Work towards the earlier deadline always,to the point that you forget the other date exists.Schedule you a quick risk assessmentat the start of a long project to see

    • 28:20

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: if there are any predictable issues you can developcontingency plans for.Pay particular attention to external dependencies.And again, if you're setting deadlinesfor receipt of external work, thenmake sure those deadlines leave plenty of slack for delays.Let's say even with all of these fail-safes in place

    • 28:42

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: you are still going to miss your deadline.The moment that looks like a possibilitybe sure to communicate it to everyone it concerns.Be open and honest and come to themwith a well-thought-out plan of how to minimize the impact.Don't put this off-- the sooner you set new expectations,

    • 29:04

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: the less you'll inconvenience everyone else.This chapter has looked at how to dealwith a number of common tools and situationsthat arise at work.Email was our first big topic.The takeaway here is to use a triage method-- makean immediate decision about every message that comes in,

    • 29:27

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: respond immediately if you can do so in less than two minutes,otherwise sort the email into a folder,and address your messages at a specific time in orderof priority.Then we talked about learning to say no.Not every email needs a response.You're not the right person to do every job.

    • 29:51

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Delegate where you can.And when someone comes to you for help,give them a polite but firm no if youdon't have the time available.If your boss is asking you to do somethingthat you don't think you can handle,make an effort to explain your limited resources.You may still need to do the work,but it's important to stick to your boundaries

    • 30:12

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: and be transparent.We talked about the importance of filing for time management.Take the time to build a good document management system.Treat incoming documents like emails--sort them straight away and respond at set times later.Create parallel virtual and paper systems

    • 30:35

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: so you can stay organized in both places.We addressed the urge to multitask, which I arguedusually isn't a good idea.Stick to one task at a time and minimize your switching costs.I also want you to keep the option of training always

    • 30:55

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: in the back of your mind.Tools and ways of working change.You can learn a lot on the job, but sometimes youneed an outside expert to give you a new perspective.Finally, we discussed preparing for the unforeseen.Stay flexible within your scheduleand allow time daily for unforeseen circumstances.

    • 31:19

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: Be open to change and set realistic expectationsfor others when you do experience delays.This course isn't tailored to a specific job or industry,so you may want to do a little research on your ownabout specific time management tips for your occupation.We're going to continue our discussion of tools

    • 31:40

      KATHERINE MOUNT [continued]: in the next chapter with an in-depth lookat the to-do list, helpful software,and the role of technology.

Becoming More Efficient in the Office

View Segments Segment :


The fifth chapter in this time management series turns its focus to workplace tactics. Katherine Mount describes how to mitigate distractions like incessant e-mails, dispels the myth of multitasking, and even demonstrates how to say "no" when necessary.

Becoming More Efficient in the Office

The fifth chapter in this time management series turns its focus to workplace tactics. Katherine Mount describes how to mitigate distractions like incessant e-mails, dispels the myth of multitasking, and even demonstrates how to say "no" when necessary.

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