For “knowledge workers” (folks who spend most of the day at a desk connected to the internet for exchange of information), email can easily get out of hand. Statistics suggest that knowledge workers spend 28% of their day handling email (more than 1/4 of your time!)
Digital Goddess Kim Kommando offers 9 Simple Steps to get your email under control. Here is an abbreviated version, including my comments:
1. Send less email. Are there better and quicker ways to communicate? Try IM, phone call or walking down the hall.
2. Send better email. Use an informative and short subject title. This also makes your email message easier to find if you need to refer back to it. Anticipate the recipient’s questions. Compose your email as you would a letter. Don’t start a reply email in the middle of a conversation – your recipient might not remember what you are replying to.
3. Create templates. If you send similar emails to friends and colleagues, create a template to save time from cut-and-paste or composing each email from scratch.
4. Unsubscribe. If your inbox is cluttered with newsletters and informational items, you should trim away some of these messages. How many do you read, anyway? (And, if you are reading every newsletter that comes to your in box, how much work are you not getting done?). Use an on-line news reader, and then schedule time to keep up with your digital reading.
5. Automate. Set up filters to route email into folders and assign priority. This will allow you to take care of important things first, and then catch up on the less critical matters later or in batches at scheduled times.
6. Bulk process email and take action. Don’t stop what you are doing to check email every time you notice a new message in your inbox. The time to stop what you are doing, check and respond to email, and get back “up to speed” on your project takes a terrible toll on productivity. Schedule time to address email messages to no more than 5-10 minutes every hour (or every-other-hour). Include this time to reply to messages that will require very little of your time, and schedule time to reply to more comprehensive messages, later.
7. Turn off email notifications. You do not need to hear that little chime every time you get a message. It is distracting and implies more urgency than warranted. It also makes you Pavlov’s Dog (hear the ding… check the email… hear the ding… check the email…).
8. Stop thinking of your inbox as a storage system. It’s a delivery system. Read and respond, delete and archive. Keep your inbox as uncluttered as possible and route all completed email messages to a folder out of sight.
9. Divide messages from tasks. Get errands and assignments out of your inbox and onto your to-do list. Use mobile and desktop applications to help you stay organized.
Good luck in taming the email beast!