The Hamster Revolution Book Review

hamster_revolution.gifTaking cue from The One Minute Manager, Zapp!, Fish! and Who Moved My Cheese?, The Hamster Revolution uses a parable to show how to better manage and organize e-mail and information. The hamster represents people endlessly running on the wheel of e-mail. Right away, I start using concepts from the 90-minute book. Considering I’m an organized person, that says something.

In the story, Harold the Hamster receives a visit from an information coach to help him with e-mail and information management. Harold is a person who turned into a hamster because e-mail and information trapped him on a figurative hamster wheel.

Harold and his coach think aloud as they explore his e-mail habits and inbox to find the problem areas. The banter between the two gives the reader insight into why something doesn’t work and how to fix it. Their comments mirror what many of us think when we’re drowning in messages. Though cheesy at times, the story quickly explains the how, what, and why without confusing readers with dry writing.

I was eager to discover the secret of COTA, the concept for creating folders named Clients, Output, Teams and Administration. COTA also represents the order of priority. The Clients folder receives top honors on the hierarchy than Output. Administration gets thrown to the bottom of the pile where it belongs. But this concept isn’t as foolproof as the authors make it sound.

They state that you won’t run into a situation when an email or document belongs in two folders. However, if that should happen — then the document belongs in the one higher up on the COTA ladder. Furthermore, the system serves departments and teams best.

COTA won’t work well for personal use (the authors apparently have another system for this, but information isn’t available yet) or a small business like mine where I’m a freelancer working on a computer that houses both business and personal information.

Furthermore, not everyone will know what some things mean such as EOM (end of message) or NRN (no reply needed). These require teaching others and a team setting would adapt to that better than a lone person who must explain it in many individuals. EOM and NRN should become as standard as smilies, but they’re far from there.

Some advice might sound common sense or old news to some people, but the authors share lesser known or new concepts. The book has had positive impact on my e-mail habits, and for what it is worth, that opinion comes from a long-time e-mail user (the days of BBSes — pre-Internet).

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