The Dark Side of Electronic Communication

Individuals and organizations alike still rely on electronic mail (e-mail) as a primary communication tool to conduct business. A 2003 study, still relevant by today’s standards, by associate professors Raymond Friedman and Steven Currall, caution about using e-mail to resolve conflicts. While they do not specifically mention it, using other media for the same purpose should also give one pause. 

Based on their review of sociological literature, the authors suggest that escalation of disputes is more likely during electronic communication than during face-to-face conversation. They also recommend a number of ways to ameliorate the risk of escalation, concluding with a call for additional empirical research into e-mail’s impact on conflict management.

The authors define the following properties as present in face-to-face communication:

  • Co-presence (parties are in the same surroundings)
  • Visibility (parties see one another)
  • Audibility (parties hear speech timing and intonation)
  • Cotemporality (parties receive utterances as they are produced)
  • Simultaneity (parties send and receive messages at once)
  • Sequentiality (parties take turns)

It is easy to see how each property enables communicators to “ground” the interaction. In other words, they are able to achieve a shared understanding about the encounter and a shared sense of participation. They also allow participants to time and adjust their actions and reactions so as to move toward agreement. Grounding, timing, and adjusting are all critically important tools in successful conflict resolution.

In looking at e-mail communication, the authors state that e-mail exchanges take place in an antisocial context (participants are isolated at their computers), allow new tactics (such as lengthy messages or communications that bundle multiple arguments together) and are characterized by reviewability and revisability (communicators are able to re-read received messages and extensively shape their responses).

These properties, as well as the lack of those that are unique to face-to-face conversation, engender the following effects (which Friedman and Currall claim increase the risk of escalation during conflict processing):

  • Low feedback. Electronic communication generates little feedback such as clues about how a recipient is reacting to one’s message. As a result, participants cannot fluidly adjust their comments to repair missteps or clarify misunderstandings. Inadvertent insults and loss of face become more likely, and misunderstandings accumulate. Also, recipients can often perceive communication tactics as “heavier” than intended. This causes social bonds to weaken and the involved parties find it more difficult to resolve conflicts.
  • Reduced social cues. E-mail communication lacks the emotional expression found in face-to-face conversations; therefore, the parties rely more on the messages’ cognitive content to manage conflict. In addition, although e-mail participants often include greetings and other forms of “social lubrication” in their messages, the power of such rituals to remind people of social norms and rules declines significantly the longer the delay between message exchanges. When long delays exist, message recipients may respond in socially inappropriate ways – aggressively or not empathetically.
  • Length of messages. When a sender bundles multiple arguments in a lengthy e-mail message, the recipient may forget to respond to one or more arguments in the reply. Moreover, in crafting a response, the recipient may focus only on those arguments that he or she found most upsetting. When a sender believes that the recipient has ignored parts of the message, the sender may suspect a violation of interaction norms. Misunderstandings can accumulate, and inadvertent insults can become more likely.
  • Excess attention. Thanks to the properties of reviewability and revisability, online communicators can ruminate at length about received messages. Research suggests that rumination increases both angry mood and perceptions of a problem’s magnitude. Reviewability and revisability also permit elaborate editing of messages, which increases composers’ commitment to their arguments. The parties become less willing to compromise, begin depersonalizing one another and view the conflict as unresolvable.

The conclusions? Use face-to-face conversations or phone calls to discuss disputes. If e-mail cannot be avoided, then consider that the perceived insult may have been unintentional. Finally, the authors suggest that e-mail users can and should manage risk to resolve conflicts more productively.

Government Spending: A Cause of Inefficiency

We often hear that government is inefficient:  They spend too much, they take too much time to provide services, they do not provide quality services, they have too many checkpoints, and so on. But who or what is government? Are employees not the heart of any organization?

Contrary to popular belief, employee performance is not the problem when it comes to efficiency. There are many very industrious and efficient employees in any industry, including government.

The root of inefficiency in government relates to money. More specifically, because governments do not spend their own money, inefficiency can be a serious problem.

To put this into perspective, think about these four possible scenarios relating to spending money (source: Milton Friedman, Free to Choose) (a matrix is also provided):

  1. You spend your own money on yourself. When you spend your own money on yourself, you take care with your money, trying to get the best deal (best quality for least cost).
  2. You spend your own money on somebody else. When you spend your money on somebody else, you still take care to spend the least amount of money, but you are not as concerned about the quality of the product or service. For example: buying gifts for someone else.
  3. You spend somebody else’s money on yourself. When you spend somebody else’s money on yourself, your primary concern is to get the best quality. Money really is no object. For example: buying yourself a gift or enjoying dinner on “somebody else’s dime.”
  4. You spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. When you have somebody else’s money to spend on others, concern for quantity of spending and quality of product and service is not a high consideration. This is the situation with government spending.

Now put yourself in government’s shoes. If you have an almost unlimited supply of someone else’s (i.e., taxpayer) money each year, how will you spend it? Will you really give your systems and processes the due care that you would if you were spending your own money?

Unlike private organizations that spend money on goods and services that the market values, government spending has no information value. That is, organizations that spend to meet market demand will create a profit – this is the value that the organization generates. If it stops generating value for its customers, it stops making money.

In government, no matter how much money is spent and no matter how much output is produced, government does not know the value of its output. This contributes to a cycle of inefficiency in spending and outputs.

When was the last time your government told you how well they spent your money?

While pockets of government departments do forge ahead with implementing efficiency measures, there is generally no check on government efficiency. Governments are inefficient because they can be.

Improving Work Performance

How’s your productivity? Does the mere mention of the word stir unease? And what about all those uber-organized work colleagues? How is it that they really seem to be on top of their work and, yet, here you are constantly struggling to keep up?

You may be surprised to learn that there’s no secret to improving work performance. It’s all about being organized. And the best part of all is that it’s a skill that anyone can learn.

Improving work performance is about being productive. It’s about doing the right things in the right way to yield maximum output. It’s about planning and prioritizing to make that happen. And it’s also about protecting your time.

To help you be more productive and use your time effeciently, here are ten suggestions.

  1. Arrange your physical work environment. Organize your workspace so that everything you use has a “home.” After use, always return items to their home. This takes discipline and a lot of work at first, but becomes habit with practice.
  2. Arrange your electronic files. When electronic files are arranged in a hierarchy that enables cross-organizational sharing, there is less duplication of files, no silos of information, and retrieval time is improved dramatically. Use a functional subject-based classification system for optimum efficiency and productivity.
  3. Use appropriate tools. No amount of arranging or organizing is going to help you work at your best if your tools are out-of-date. Still using Windows 95? Or DOS? Invest in current technology, a nicer website, and appropriate resources to help you be more productive. Not making the investment will bog you down, create frustration, and lead to regularly “burning the midnight oil.”
  4. Check-in with your list. As you make commitments, write them down, and check-in with your list every day. Lists help us manage our time and free our minds of mental energy that we would otherwise spend on tracking our “to-do’s.” If you write down what you need to do instead of keeping it in your head, you’ll also experience less stress and better sleep.
  5. Do it now. At work or at home, if a task takes five minutes or less, then do it now. If it’s going to take longer, then write it on your list and schedule time to do the task. Organized people don’t procrastinate on tasks that they can easily complete within a few minutes.
  6. Uni-task. While multitasking may seem like you’re accomplishing more, you are in fact accomplishing less across more area. To be truly efficient, effective, and productive, focus on one task, giving it your full attention. Turn off email pop-ups and calendar reminders. Protect your time to gain productive results.
  7. Problem-solve; don’t blame. If you happen to get sidetracked or encounter a challenge that impacts your work, use a problem-solving approach. Author Hillary Rettig gives the following example about someone engaging in inner defeatist dialogue: “What’s wrong with you? This is easy! Anyone can do it! Why are you so lazy? And with all the money you just spent on classes! What a loser!” Instead, focus on a solution: “Oh, I’m underproductive. That’s interesting. Let’s see what’s going on and how I can fix it.”
  8. Work with your energy cycle. Instead of time management, work to suit your daily energy levels. If you have high energy in the morning, then schedule the most difficult or more creative work in the morning. Don’t try to accomplish critical tasks when your energy is at a lull.
  9. Know thyself. Organized people know their strengths and weaknesses and reflect a high sense of self-worth. Ask for help to complete work on time. Just because it’s in your job description does not mean you need to do it all yourself. Think of your time as a resource that has value. Perfectionists and high achievers may not be comfortable letting anyone else share the reins, but interpersonal support goes a long way in managing stress.
  10. De-stress. Most people operate in a state of chronic stress, but those who are able to focus and stay organized are able to manage stress. The most effective way to manage stress is to exercise every day for at least 30 minutes. This can be a brisk walk, meditation, yoga, whatever works for you – just don’t sit at your computer all day.

Practicing the above suggestions takes motivation to get started. Once started, habit will keep you moving to become more organized and productive. You will also become a happier person, overall.

Rating Records Management Program Maturity

A records and information management (“RIM”) program that is effective and efficient allows you to do the following:

  • Create only the records needed to satisfy legal, fiscal, administrative, and operational requirements.
  • Retain essential records and destroy obsolete records.
  • Store records safely and securely in a cost-effective manner.
  • Retrieve information quickly through efficient access and retrieval systems.
  • Use the right information technology for the right reasons.
  • Promote and support the use of archival records as a community resource.
  • Recognize through policy and procedures that records management is everyone’s job.

If your organization is struggling in any of these areas, tools like the Records Management Maturity Model (“RM3”) can be helpful.

The RM3 is adapted from the National Archives of Canada’s Information Management Model and includes six areas for evaluation—organizational context, organizational capabilities, management of records and information management, compliance and quality, records life cycle, and user perspective.

A five-point scale in RM3, ranging from one (undeveloped RIM program or in the beginning stages) to five (industry best practices program), allows organizations to see how they compare to industry best practices.

The criteria for each element are summarized below:

  1. Organizational context. This includes an organization’s capacity to support, sustain, and strengthen its records management capabilities. It also includes a review of the organization’s culture, change management capability, and impact of the external environment on its RIM practices.
  2. Organizational capabilities. Included here is an organization’s capacity to develop its people, processes and technology resources for a sound RIM program. It also includes an evaluation of the organization’s availability of internal specialists to manage the program. In addition to RIM tools and their enabling technologies, other areas reviewed include project management capabilities and relationship management in support of RIM.
  3. Management of records and information. An organization’s capacity to effectively manage activities in support of records management as it relates to the effective delivery of programs and services is the theme of this element. Included is an evaluation of leadership and executive awareness, quality of strategic plans, principles, policies and standards, roles and responsibilities, program integration, mechanisms for risk management, and the performance management framework for RIM.
  4. Compliance and quality. High maturity in this area means that the organization has controls in place to ensure that its records holdings are not compromised. This includes the extent to which the organization’s processes ensure records are authentic, reliable, usable, and have integrity (i.e., records quality), information security, privacy, business continuity, and compliance.
  5. Records life cycle. Ensuring that the organization has capacity to support each phase of the records life cycle is part of this element. This includes incorporating records life cycle requirements in policies, programs, services and systems, and assessing records collections, their sharing and re-use. The organization of records for optimized retrieval as well as maintenance and preservation of records for long-term usability, and records disposition plans are also included here.
  6. User perspective. People are an important aspect of any program. The organization must have the capacity to meet the information needs of all users. This element includes an evaluation of user awareness, user training and support, and user satisfaction.

While the above elements and criteria are highly effective for evaluating RIM programs, they can also be used for other areas. But before embarking on any program evaluation, discern whether the program is required in the first place.

Time and Money—An Organizational Focus

Poorly run organizations waste time (and time is money). This inhibits the company’s ability to hit markets at optimum times. Allow me to give you an example

Several years ago, I worked with a company in the wastewater treatment industry that consistently put in long hours to meet deadlines. Why all the long hours? The owners relied on one individual to make all of the decisions. This was far from a wise use of corporate time and resources. The result was burn-out, missed deadlines, and in the end, the company went out of business.

An inaccurate assessment of the time needed to conduct a project, write a report, develop a product, etc. is critical to organizational success. If the estimate of time is over or under, money is wasted. And if your company is in the business of bringing products to market, the window of opportunity is open only for so long.

Another huge time and money guzzler that takes away from strategic organizational focus is technology. If an organization is “wedded” to its technology and refuses to alter its approach, it often consumes more cash before realizing too late that it must change direction. Don’t keep throwing good money into bad software under the assumption that it costs less to “update” what you already have. It usually doesn’t.

A recent client was sometimes spending upwards of seven or more hours trying to print a 15-page report. If software is causing so wasted time, why spend time and money trying to fix a problem that in all likelihood cannot be fixed? Stop, scrap, and start over to save money. Knowing when to let go of technology is a management skill that cannot be underestimated.

Mismanaged organizations consume budgets without ever hitting milestones necessary to achieve success. In the process, they produce frustrated and burned-out staff along with the possibility of business shut-down.

Don’t be afraid to let go of products and processes that no longer work effectively or efficiently, regardless of the cost to replace them. In the long-term, replacement will yield far greater productivity results.

Benchmark studies over the past 15 years have shown that organizations can reap tremendous rewards with modest or no capital investments. Some of these gains have resulted in, for example:

  • Doubled outputs and profits with the same staff allocation
  • Doubled productivity across all levels of the organization
  • Reduced throughput time and defects by 90%
  • Reduced supply chain inventory by 75%
  • Reduced space and unit costs by 50%

What’s your organization doing? Is it surviving or thriving? If it’s not thriving, take a look at how your staff’s time is being used. You may be surprised at the potential savings that can be had through simple changes.

Triage—Best Served Regularly

Triage helps us decipher between the important and unimportant and is essential to ensuring we do the right work at the right time and to/for the right person/thing. But be aware: Avoid the trap of triaging work just for the sake of keeping workflow moving.

Blindly triaging work can cost more than stopping the flow to challenge whether the work is necessary in the first place. This is particularly relevant to such things as writing reports that no one will ever read, creating programs that no one will ever use, or creating new departments that have limited (or no) usefulness to stakeholders or to the organization. You have an obligation to your organization to challenge when the work you are doing has no value.

But if you are doing the right work and for the right reasons, then managing work through triage can be very effective.

Triage is about prioritizing work based on its importance and urgency. It is particularly useful when applied to managing information. By triaging information such as correspondence and e-mail, you can save a lot of time if the most important gets done first. In fact, many people might say that triage is like applying the 80:20 rule to everything you do—you create 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts by focusing your efforts primarily on the important and urgent.

How do you determine what is important and urgent? Here are five suggestions for dispatching your important and urgent work to create superb results for you and your organization:

  1. Keep an updated “to-do” list and focus on completing medium-importance, high urgency goals most of the time. This will give you 80% of your results. Constantly scan your list and drop items that are of low importance or have no urgency.
  2. Standardize work whenever you can. For instance, have procedures in place on how to write reports, how to format documents, how to handle email, etc. The more standards in your organization, the more time you will have for high-productivity and high-creativity items instead of thinking about how to write a report, how to format a document or how to handle email.
  3. When making decisions, don’t focus on the decision. Instead, focus on options that may result in the right decision. It’s much easier to make a decision based on a few options instead of making a decision based on the entire case.
  4. Close your email and browser when working on important work. You will get the important work done much sooner.
  5. Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is counterproductive. In fact, everyone’s brain slows down considerably when trying to juggle multiple tasks.

And if the above still falls short of helping you and your organization achieve exceptional workflow, outsourcing of work is another option. It costs much less to hire experts than it does to fumble through work that is not within your or your organization’s area of expertise.

The fact is that none of us are good at everything, but all of us are good at something. Determine the areas where you and your organization create the most value—and outsource everything else.

Tradition and Productivity

In the acclaimed Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof, the main character, Tevye, explains his society’s traditions in the song “Tradition.” The song juxtaposes village life to a world that is changing all around them.

In many respects, struggles faced in today’s organizations may be rooted in difficulty in letting go of tradition—an inability to change.

Consider that the world’s most successful organizations have one thing in common: they are able to adapt quickly to change. Aside from the fact that the top 20 companies in the world are all in the field of technology, this in itself is telling—companies that have embraced technology are the companies that continue to lead in both earnings and productivity.

To improve performance and productivity, companies use technology and its related gadgets, but if the technology does not provide useful information to the user and the organization as a whole, its usefulness is limiting. Technological tools must be able to provide information about performance in both directions. Let me give you an example.

Some companies implemented a web-based time sheet manager that includes two measures of productivity on projects—one for the employee and the other for their team. While the system encourages productivity, it only measures performance one-way—the way the organization has determined correct.

In this example, time sheet measures provide what the organization is looking for, but what is missing is employee input. Meeting targets is one thing, but did the employee agree to the targets in the first place? Are the targets realistic? How has meeting the targets impacted employee wellbeing? These and other considerations need to be incorporated within performance measures to not only improve on performance measures, but to improve on the activities that comprise productivity.

The approach described is typical of many organizations. It is, by all accounts, traditional and one-way—company to employee.

Company demands for maximum productivity needs to be coupled with meeting employee demands. This includes understanding the individual and their work as well as understanding what the individual needs to get their work done. In other words, companies need to listen to their employees before developing systems. This is especially true in today’s economy where Generation X and Generation Y have already displaced the Baby Boomers in the workforce.

Successful organizations need to change their systems and processes to meet the needs of the “what’s in it for me” generation (X) as well as the Gen Y kids who are very technology-wise and “immune to most traditional marketing and sales pitches.”

The tradition carried into the workplace by Baby Boomers no longer meets the needs of organizations. Insisting on maintaining practices started in the 20th Century is not a tradition that will benefit 21st Century companies. The successful organizations of the 21st Century will want to work with their individual employees to learn how to accomplish more for the benefit of both employees and the organization.

Effective Leaders Enable Productive Organizations

As an effective leader, you know that certain competencies are necessary to your success on the job. Things like building yourself as a whole person (emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, creatively), building winning teams, being respectful of others to earn their respect, communicating effectively, inspiring others to build trust … just to name a few. You may also know that proven leadership methods aren’t always the answer in every situation.

Enabling others to be as efficient, effective, and productive as possible is a key tenet of leadership. What is your staff working on? What systems, processes, and tools are they using to accomplish organizational goals? Are these systems, processes, and tools as efficient and effective as possible? These are questions that every leader should be asking, since the leaders’ accountability is (first of all) to their staff to enable organizational productivity.

In addition to looking at overall organizational productivity, leaders need to talk to their staff and customers to understand the big picture. Talking to other leaders or mentors is not going to get you information about what your customers are thinking. And, sometimes, neither will talking with your staff.

Instead of talking with your staff, why not experience what your staff experiences? The show “Undercover Boss” sets a great example for leaders. Putting yourself in your staff’s shoes will teach you more about your organization’s operations than you could ever learn from the company’s policies and procedures manuals or strategic planning sessions.

And what about mentors? Every leader needs two mentors–one mentor half their age and the other twice their age. Currently, a huge number of baby boomers are retiring or semi-retiring. Those that semi-retire continue to stay in the job market in a part-time or entrepreneurial capacity. At the same time, Generation Y (those born between the late 1970s to the early 2000s) is entering the job market for the first-time. The collision of these two generations in the workplace is already seeing a shift in the way information sharing is executed. A decade ago, leaders didn’t need to think about tweets or texts;  now they do. Seek mentors to help you bridge the gap between these two generations.

The bottom line is that leaders must continually evolve and practice their knowledge, values, skills, and behaviours. Taking elements of the tried and true methods such as those discussed above, and modifying them to fit current situations enables good leaders to become effective leaders in productive organizations.

 

The Cost of Ignoring Communication

A noted author recommends that people selectively ignore communications by scanning communication for two vital pieces of information:

  • Action required by you
  • Deadline for completing the action

If neither of these items is included in the communication, he says to hit the Delete key. And this applies no matter who sent the communication. The author cites a 69% chance that you’ll get this exact communication a second time and there is a 48% chance you’ll get it a third time. He may be correct about the repeated communication, but I suggest the reason the communication is repeated is that it was ignored in the first place.

If you don’t respond to senders, they will repeat their communication until you do. This wastes everyone’s time. Instead of ignoring communication, reply to all communication the first time. It is the courteous thing to do.

In a previous post, I discussed the B-F-A-T Rule for email. With Bring forward-File-Act-Toss, every email that you open in your Inbox is immediately moved out of your Inbox. The goal is to have zero “opened” items in your Inbox at the end of each day. And once you start applying the rule, you’ll be amazed at how your productivity and efficiency will increase. Not to mention that removing clutter from your email inbox will also result in reduced stress.

For every email item in your Inbox, as soon as you open it, SCAN it (or READ it) and immediately do one of the following:

Bring it forward. If the email requires more than a few minutes of your time, tag the email with a Follow-up flag, set a date reminder for yourself in the flag. Now respond to the sender and let them know when they may be getting a response from you. Then MOVE the email to the appropriate Personal Folder (or Delete it – the flag will find it for you when its schedule is due).

File it. If the email is required for reference (i.e., it has value for you and/or your organization), MOVE it from your Inbox to the appropriate Personal Folder. However, if the email has long-term value and others may need it, save it on your organization’s local area network (LAN) or use the electronic document and records management system (EDRMS), as applicable.

Act on it. If the email requires a reply and the reply will take less than a couple of minutes, REPLY to it right away and then either DELETE it (because it has no value to you) or MOVE your “Sent” email (or the original sender’s email) to the appropriate Personal Folder. Remember: even if you don’t move the email to the appropriate Personal Folder, your reply is in your SENT folder. The deleted original email will also be in the DELETE folder.

Toss it. If the email does not require a reply (e.g., mass mailings such as bulletins, newsletters, or other general communique) and has no long-term value, DELETE it.

Following the above guidelines will ensure that you always have an Inbox that is clutter-free and you will be able to locate the information that you need more quickly. In short, you will achieve productivity with your email communications. And the rule is so simple, that you’ll wonder why you never applied it before.

In addition, you’ll save time for yourself and for your senders. It’s a win-win all around.

 

Improving Email Communications

The Radicati Group estimated that in 2010 the number of emails sent per day was around 294 billion. This means that more than 2.8 million emails were sent every second by about 1.9 billion email users (almost 30% of the world’s population).

Given this high number of users and email transmissions, one would think that writing, sending, and responding to emails would be a simple act. However, this is not so. Clarity and brevity in email communication is still lacking. Bill Jensen, author of Simplicity, suggests that there is a connection between behavioural communication and “clear” communication. He says that to be effective, communication must convey the following:

  • Connection. There must be a connection to the recipient’s workload (“how is the message relevant to what I do?”)
  • Lists. The email must list action steps (“what, specifically, should I do?”)
  • Expectations. The expectations for success need to be clear (“what do success and failure look like?”)
  • Ability. The ability to achieve success must be demonstrated (“what tools and support are available?”)
  • Return. The return to the person must be obvious (“what’s in it for me?”)

However, even if you do meet all of the above criteria in your messages, there are still things that occur that can drive your recipient “nuts.” Here are some examples of things to avoid in your email practices.

  1. Reply to all. CYA (cover your butt) is a lazy excuse for hitting the Reply to All button. Does your email really need to be sent to all? Think before you act.
  2. Complex issues. Trying to solve complex messages by email does not work. If it is a complex issue that perhaps started as not-so-complex, pick up the phone or call an in-person meeting.
  3. Subject lines. Does your subject line match the body of your email? This has got to be one of the most exasperating complaints about email. Using an old message to compose a new message is ineffective and not changing the subject line is unforgivable. Subject lines need to be concise and accurate because subject lines aid filing and information retrieval.
  4. Cancellations. If you need to cancel a meeting last minute, do so by telephone. Do not email. Do not text. This is a courtesy we would all do well to observe.
  5. Your poor planning does not constitute my emergency. You know the types – they forgot to get something completed and now all of a sudden, there’s an “urgent” email demanding your attention. And if the deadline isn’t met, the finger is pointed at you because they were “waiting” on you to complete a piece of the project.
  6. ALL CAPS or underlines. Do not use all capitalization in email messages because it appears as if you’re shouting. And don’t use underline because it may appear to be a hyperlink.
  7. Original messages missing. Replying to messages and not returning the original thread creates more work for the recipient who is now trying to remember what they wrote. This hinders productivity. Always return the full message thread.
  8. No signature lines. Always include your full signature on email messages. This includes your name, title, organization, address, and phone numbers. This saves time for the recipient in case they want to call you or send you “real” mail.
  9. Too many attachments. If you’re sending a lot of attachments, get permission before doing so or combine the attachments into one document. Or use an email attachment service such as You Send It where only a link will be provided, thus saving space.
  10. Work email abuse. Sometimes people send non-work related email from their work email address. This is not a good practice, since the majority of big companies monitor email.

When writing your next email, keep in mind the above guidelines. And above all else, use common sense and be disciplined in delivering clear and robust messages in as little space as possible.