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Too much information

Tips on how to deal with (too much) information

Rolf Dornberger, how do you manage to get uninterrupted thinking time, or periods of undisturbed work?

Rolf Dornberger: My email account is my most important tool. I use it to receive and pass on open issues. I find it quite useful to collect emails from the same sender and then make an appointment to discuss all the issues together. It’s often much faster to discuss things verbally. And it’s important to check your emails not more than four times a day, instead of dealing with them constantly.  Also, checking your emails is not a great way to start your day and if possible you should avoid playing email ping-pong. After a message has gone back and forth twice, that should be it! Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with appointments, phone calls and “can I ask you a quick question?” emails.

Do you always have your email open?

Usually I do, because I need to access my calendar and to-do list. But I switch off the pop-up email alerts and sounds.

What other time management strategies do you use?

I always try to keep my emails short. Some managers say emails should be no longer than five sentences. And you should cc people only if it’s really necessary. I plan periods of time during which I cannot be contacted and if possible schedule at least four half-days a week where I don’t have any meetings. I turn my phone off and close the door when I need time to myself, or for a one-on-one conversation.

How important is your telephone?

I’m not a fan of the telephone, although it is sometimes useful. I also try to avoid talking on my mobile phone. These days, we no longer just work during the day, but also in the evenings and on weekends. So it has become generally acceptable for people try and call me outside business hours. I don’t like it when this happens, so I make a point of not calling people on their mobile phones when they’re not at work. Otherwise, something that used to happen only in an emergency becomes normal behaviour. 

Interview: Nathalie Baumann