Jeremiah at Web Strategist blogged about the how e-mail is consuming us in today’s business culture. Often, a lot of employees in almost any sized organization, are bogged down doing e-mail instead of getting work done. There is some hope — some technical solutions and some process improvements.
How do you behave with e-mail? If you’re like me, you try to respond quickly when it comes in, but that aside, what if you’re behind in e-mail, say on Monday morning? Psychologically, you feel overloaded, overworked and possibly depressed if you have a rather full Inbox. I understand, I’ve been there.
E-mail is a lot like rush hour traffic. Traffic only moves as fast as the slowest person. If you’re a slacker who does e-mail as the last task of the day, then you are aggravating your employees, your customers and partners. People have a need to communicate, and like humans, we want it now. Having that said, the fastest person in traffic isn’t always the quickest.
You have you put your foot down.
Understand that only you control how much e-mail you need to respond to. Only you can draw the line in the virtual sand that demarcs when you check e-mail. Watching your inbox isn’t productive. Don’t let e-mail rule you, you need to manage it just like an unproductive employee.
I have two solutions/tips for those who receive large quantities of important mail:
- Work Smarter, Not Harder: You don’t need to watch your Inbox. Check it at intervals. I suggest three to four times daily. Don’t check e-mail unless you are able to dedicate a half-hour segment to break through it like Chuck Norris. Prioritize necessary e-mails, throw spam into your appropriate Junk/Spam folder. Whatever you do, don’t open Linkbait.
- Learn when to take e-mail “offline” into a face-to-face meeting, phone call or Instant Message, if available.
- Reply All is the enemy. Don’t do it unless it’s absolutely vital.
- If an e-mail has you as the CC or BCC, it probably isn’t all that important.
- Use the Important/Urgency method to determine when you should respond to e-mails.
- Upgrade Your Tools: Before I completely bash Outlook, I want to credit Microsoft for making Scheduling and Delegation incredibly user friendly. Beyond that, Outlook Mail is a time-suck because it cognitively forces you to read mail previews, and mail forwards are attached, not in-line. This is especially troubling for those who need to read forwarded e-mail. Use Mozilla Thunderbird. Thunderbird is to e-mail like Johnny Depp is to Pirates of the Caribbean. You can configure mail filters, Tagging (for color coding efficiency), and it fetches e-mail much more reliably than Outlook.
I have some credibility in my advice. I used to receive about 4000 e-mails a month [during my time at AOL], of which most of them were usually time-sensitive. I used to spend a solid 4-hours daily doing e-mail. After making these simple changes, I reclaimed more than two hours daily and was even more productive.
What are your e-mail tips? Share them in the comments!