The 2005 McKinsey Global Survey of Business Executives revealed that a staggering amount of time is wasted on emails, voice mails, and meetings with no value. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bubkes. Take a look at their numbers:
Staggering, aren't they? 55% of respondents are losing between 1/2 and 2 1/2 days per week to stuff that's just not helping them professionally or personally. No wonder they're stressed. And you're probably in the same boat.
So what can you do?
You need to filter out this stuff before it ever hits your inbox, your desk, your calendar. You don' t even want to waste time processing this low-value (or no-value) information before tossing it.
Here's how to do it: tell the people you work with what you want to see and what's irrelevant to you. All too often, they're just trying to be helpful: they drop memos on your chair with a "FYI" post-it, invite you to meetings that are tangential or trivial, and include you on Reply All emails -- not because they're trying to bury you, but because they're really trying to help. They assume that you want to know. And I suppose, in a perfect world, you would want to know everything.
But it's not a perfect world. It's a screaming, howling, Force 5 hurricane world of information that just keeps getting worse. Trying to stay on top of all that is the road to madness. Or at least the road to 95 hour work weeks.
Far better to let people know what you don't want. Train them. When you get information that you don't need, send it back to them with an explanation as to why it's irrelevant to you. When you get something valuable, explain that, too. It won't take more than a week before they understand. And if you do this only with the handful of people who generate most of the emails/phone calls/meetings, you'll have taken a big step down the road towards sanity.
They won't get it right all the time, of course. You'll get copied on stuff that you still don't need. And you may -- on occasion -- miss something that you wish you had seen earlier. (Far less often than you might think, though.) But on balance, you'll be better off. And so will your business.