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The Independent Online

Q. E-mail overload is quite simply making my life a misery. I spend at least two hours every morning going through my messages from the night before and then they keep coming at me regularly throughout the day. When I had a couple of days off, I got back to find over 80 sitting in my mail box.

Q. E-mail overload is quite simply making my life a misery. I spend at least two hours every morning going through my messages from the night before and then they keep coming at me regularly throughout the day. When I had a couple of days off, I got back to find over 80 sitting in my mail box.

A. It beats me why e-mail always comes under the "useful tools" section of time management books, when we all know it is the very spawn of the devil, placed on this planet to send us all slowly mad by overloading the working day. You have few options and may have to be brutal: 1. Speed-read your way through the mail, quickly deleting any that look like junk (includes any that are peppered with exclamation marks or that spell your name wrong). Then park the ones that are important but not urgent, like memos from the boss telling you that you are fired. Then try to handle the speedy-response stuff straight away. 2. Be more frugal with your own mail. Others may learn from your behaviour. 3. Send a company-wide posting saying you are suffocating under an avalanche of e-mail and could the non-urgent senders please lay off.

Q. A year ago I opted to take part in a job-share scheme when I had my first child. It worked quite well with the first woman because we knew one another and liked to work in roughly the same style. Now she has left and the new woman is giving me grief. The handover is erratic and she is always leaving problems she has created for me to pick up. All I seem to do now is handle complaints from irate clients.

A. You need to suggest some two-woman team-building to gorge a working partnership. Suggest to your boss that you take a mini away-day, planning communicating and, hopefully, bonding, until all the problems are sorted out. This will need a little time, probably half a day at least. Sit down with her and start from scratch. Listen to her gripes, too, before getting stuck in with your own problems. Look for ways of moving forward, though, rather than focusing on things that have gone wrong in the past. Changeover is always tricky. Find out how she likes to do things and then negotiate a system that works for both of you. If nothing improves, you may have to talk to your boss.

Q. Try as hard as I can, my desk always resembles a rubbish tip. I tidy it as regularly as possible but the chaos returns after what seems like a couple of minutes. Other colleagues keep theirs pristine. Have I inherited slob genes, or what?

A. Possibly. But the good thing about humans is that we can always change our behaviour. Do a ruthless cull of what currently lives on your desk. Throw out non-important paperwork you have been hanging on to and chuck any half-dead pot plants and goofy desk toys. Acquire two in-trays for urgent and important papers and store them somewhere that is not your desk top. Stick Post-Its on letters as you read them, with memos telling you what to do with them, so that you only read them once. Your work station is going to be a document-free zone. Throw out any pens that don't work and buy a nice smart tub for the ones that do. Rearrange your phone and PC so that they are ergonomic-friendly. Stop eating at your desk and throw coffee cups away before the contents reach penicillin stage. Clean up as you go along. Treat yourself to a nice smart mouse mat as a reward.

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