Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

The Genius Way Coca-Cola Employees Manage Their Email

It's more about choosing the levels of connection during non-work hours.

Forget work/life balance. You can sleep when you die.

At least that’s how Snapchat’s Emily White and Coca Cola’s Wendy Clark said they approach time management in a hyper-connected world. And the idea of unplugging? Ha.

“Rather than the choice to consciously disconnect, there’s much more of a trend of choosing who to connect with and in what context,” White said. “It’s very much about conversations.”

During a panel at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit on Monday, White, the COO of Snapchat and a veteran of Instagram, Facebook and Google, said she now relies on her phone more than her computer to get work done. “You’re not just getting information and solving problems; you’re getting to communicate in motion like never before,” White said. “This is the reason I can have kids and still have a relationship with them, and work in the evenings when I get home [after the kids are in bed].”

For Clark, the president of sparkling brands and strategic marketing for Coca-Cola North America, being present at work or with her family is the key to living in an over-connected world. “The thing people want most from you is your focus and attention,” Clark said. “You destroy that when you think that you’re multitasking because you’re not accomplishing either.”

That means no phones at the dinner table, for her or her kids. And if she’s expecting an urgent email from the CEO when they’re putt-putt golfing, she’s found the best thing to do is tell them that mommy needs to go respond to an email for 10 minutes and hope they don’t screw up her score while she’s gone.

So when you’re constantly connected, how do you get anything done?

  • Make the most of your subject lines. Clark said that at Coca-Cola, employees include tags in their subject lines to help manage email flow: URGENT, ACTION REQUIRED and INFORM.
  • Form habits you can keep. Recognize that you’re setting the standard for what people in your life will do, White said. If you start emailing people at night, people will expect you to be on email at night.
  • Give yourself white space during the day. Clark’s a fan of Google’s “speedy” meeting invitations, which are constrained to 50 minutes, without an option to override the system. By changing the standard for meetings to 25 or 50 minutes, the remaining five or 10 minutes can be used to check email or go to the bathroom, allowing everyone to be more present when they’re together.
  • Set boundaries. Camille Preston, author of Rewired, says having boundaries will help you with willpower. Put fences up to focus on what you want to do at that time.
  • Don’t hit send. If you want to work on the weekends, save your emails as drafts, but don’t actually send them until Monday unless they’re urgent. As a leader, you need to let people enjoy their weekends.

(Image via Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com )