Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to Stop the Email Insanity

Guest post by Kristi Royse, Principal of KLR Consulting. (Editor's note: Ms Royse is a nationally recognized speaker, facilitator, management consultant, executive coach, trainer, and time management expert.). Managing email is one of the most commonly cited frustrations in the workplace today. Email is the most abused form of communication, and may be the leading offender in the sorry state of communication in corporate America. A number of companies are so desperate for relief that they are experimenting with banning email usage once a week. Email is one of the biggest interruptions in today’s workplace. If your computer automatically notifies you when you receive email, turn that function off--especially during your “veggie” time. Instead, set up times to check email three times a day, or at most once per hour. This method is one of the fastest ways to improve productivity. A client of mine was in the habit of checking his email throughout the day--each time he heard a ping. We helped him create a new system of checking it three times a day, at 10:15, 2:30 and 5:30. Whereas he previously could not keep up with his messages, with his new approach he discovered he could clear his In Box each time he opened it--the reward for fully focusing his attention on email for 45 minutes at a time. He also reset the expectations of people who sent him email messages that he was not waiting behind his computer for their email – if they had something urgent, they should pick up the phone and call. I encourage you to do the same – you’ll be amazed how many fire drills dissipate before they reach your desk. 5 tips for improved email management: 1. Do it now and/or delete it now. Act on and respond to your messages the first time that you read them. 2. Don’t use your In Box as “to-do list”; it’s the electronic equivalent of having piles on your desk. The average person wastes 30 minutes each day looking for old email messages. 3. Use folders & subfolders. The rule is never to have more than one screen of email messages in your Inbox. 4. Spam can come in different forms. Don’t open suspected spam email and delete it immediately. If you open spam email, it will tell the sender they’ve reached a “live” email address. 5. Create rules to automatically move your incoming messages into the correct file. This will save time when sorting your messages. Rules can also block unwanted messages.

1 comment:

technolawyer said...

I disagree with some of the email management advice here.

First, if you receive an email message with an assignment that will take you hours (or days) to complete, you cannot do it now or delete the message now.

Second, don't be afraid to open a message if your email program does not automatically load images. Unless you load images, no one will know you opened the message. And even if you do load images automatically, you still have little to fear. Spam exists because sending it is essentially free. Refraining from opening messages will not get you removed from spam lists. They will continue emailing you no matter what.

Third, even if you use a true to-do list manager, you will often need to find an old message. Thus, I agree with the advice to use folders. I also recommend using an email service with excellent search technology. For example, with Google Apps you can use a client like Outlook, but when you need to conduct a search you can use Google's best-in-class search technology on the Web.

Finally, much good advice is missing -- especially using IMAP or PUSH so that your email is always in sync across all devices.