Boy-oh-boy, did this article ever speak loudly to me … in fact, it screamed at me! I’ll be the first to admit it, I am a slave to email. Somebody really needs to start a 12-Step-Program for all of us email addicts. “Hi, I’m Terry, and I’m addicted to email!” Since one of the services I provide as a Virtual Assistant is to manage email for my clients, it is vital that I manage my own email effectively and have good time-management skills. The following article by Debra J. Schmidt, The Loyalty Leader, shares the system she uses and recommends to control and manage your email so it doesn’t control you.
Taming The Email Beast
By Debra J. Schmidt
Do you feel like email is devouring your time? You’re not alone. According to research, the average U.S. worker spends up to four hours each day sending and receiving email. This can create a time management problem for employees and managers.
If email is dominating your day, it’s also damaging your productivity. You need to tame the beast and take back your time. Are you lured to your computer to check email every time it arrives in your inbox? If so, you’re wasting valuable time. These interruptions impair productivity. Now is the time for you to develop an email management system.
Here’s the system that works for me:
Mute your computer speakers so that you don’t hear the alert every time a message arrives. Don’t be a “slave” to your computer tones. If you can hear your messages arriving, they will interrupt your thoughts, conversations and creativity.
Don’t leave your email program open. It’s too tempting to glance at it every time a message is received. Even if you’re not reading the messages, they are causing you stress and disrupting your concentration.
Develop a consistent schedule for email “quick checks.” Try to schedule no more than four email checks per day. Choose the times that work best for you. During these email “quick checks,” only respond to those matters that require immediate attention.
For example: you can check your messages one hour after you get to work. Very few important messages will have arrived between the time you left yesterday and the time you arrive today. Waiting one hour will allow your co-workers and customers to get their first messages of the day to you, and still give you plenty of time to respond. Start your day by working on those high priority projects that are awaiting completion.
Your second email check can occur right before lunchtime. Schedule one around mid-afternoon, and your last check just before you leave for the day.
Manage your email efficiently. In order to work effectively and present a professional image, it is critical to keep your work area organized and free of clutter. View your email inbox as an extension of your workspace. Schedule 15-30 minutes twice each day to manage the messages that are cluttering your inbox.
The Loyalty Leader’s 5 Rs of Email Management:
The goal of this management program is to reduce the number of emails you keep in your inbox so that you are not constantly reviewing the same material. Just like regular mail and documents, it’s important to develop a “one-touch” system whenever possible.
Read your messages and prioritize them by importance. If you have allowed your inbox to become excessively full, you may need to use a pad of paper to list the messages by sender and subject in the order of importance. Set up three columns, “Urgent,” “Need Additional Info” and “Filing.”
Open the item and respond immediately to those messages that require action on your part. If you are not prepared to provide all of the information the sender has requested, respond with a promised date and time of delivery. Keep your promise.
Immediately delete any item that is a duplicate of another message, outdated or irrelevant information, inappropriate content such as SPAM and chain letters, or a message that does not require any response. If you’re uncomfortable about deleting the message, store it in an appropriate folder.
For email messages that require further follow-up or need to be retained as business records, set up a system of folders for filing those messages. It’s easy to do in Microsoft Outlook. Simply click on the “Organize” button and create folders that make sense for organizing your material. For example: folder labels can include, “Due Monday,” “Requests from the Boss,” “Strategic Plan,” “Upcoming Meetings,” etc.
If email is an absolutely essential form of communication, necessary for effectively doing your job (think this through very carefully), make a commitment to review your folders once a month to delete unnecessary messages or move the items to new folders. Keep your inbox as empty as possible and organize your folders in a way that makes information easy to access. By doing so, you, too can tame the email beast.
To learn email formatting and etiquette rules check out the audio CD: Easy Email Etiquette for Everyone in the Workplace.
Debra J. Schmidt, a.k.a. “The Loyalty Leader®”, helps companies boost their profits by leading them to greater customer, employee and brand loyalty. Learn more at: TheLoyaltyLeader.com