Managing e-mail

It’s interesting that technology is often heralded as a servant for us yet frequently we become a servant to it. E-mail was trumpeted as the new communications tool that would surely put first class “snail mail” out of business. In 1999 the U. S. Post Office delivered more pieces of first class mail than ever and e-mails exceeded the volume of first class mailings. We have created another layer of communicating with one another and an additional responsibility to monitor and manage.

E-mail is a useful tool but many feel controlled by this relatively new method of communication. The average businessperson is getting around 80 e-mails per day and many feel that about 80% of the messages in their “In Box” are of little or no value.

Here are four suggestions to help you to become better at “Easing E-mail”:

  1. Get off the lists. The best way to deal with a problem is to never have it. If you are receiving a lot of unwanted e-mails, ask to be removed from the various lists. This would include your inclusion in unwanted “cc” lists or unappreciated solicitations from those promising “unlimited wealth without risk or effort”.
  2. “Unlisted address”. Just like getting an “unlisted” telephone number that you share only with those whom you want to give direct access, you might want to get a separate e-mail address that you use only for the important communications you wish to receive.
  3. Check it once or twice per day. Many people feel they have to be chained to their email server, monitoring incoming email on a continuous basis. Maybe this is because e-mail creates its own sense of urgency, but most of the communications are not all that urgent. You may want to let your “incoming” batch up and respond to them a couple of times per day.
  4. Deal with it. Like handling paper, you don’t want to get into the “shuffling blues” where you read e-mail, postpone action, save it, re-read it later, and allow things to slip through the cracks. As you open each e-mail do one of the following:
    • If it requires a quick response, (it will only take a minute or two), respond to it and delete it.
    • think of a way of delegating it. There’s a lot of difference between
    • If it requires a response but is not the best use of your time, try to “I do it” and “It gets done”.
    • If it is going to take any serious amount of time to respond ( beyond a minute or two), schedule it for action in your diary and then download the message, save it, or print it out for future action.
    • Create files for your e-mails which you can use to store under various categories. This will save you time scrolling down your in-box looking for specific e-mails.
    • Discipline yourself to delete (or dump) unnecessary e-mails. The very fact it is still in your ‘inbox’ will take up recognition and concentration time.

By practicing the suggestions above, you will be able to handle large volumes of e-mails and not be controlled by it to the distraction of more important tasks in your day.