THURSDAY THOUGHTS! - E-Mail - How do you control your e-mail? - Lesson 1

Posted by | July 19, 2012 | Thursday Thoughts | No Comments

The last few weeks we’ve been looking at personal behaviour change in relation to working differently.  Clearly the desire is there to do things differently so is it the environment or “the system” that is stopping us ultimately?

I thought we should focus on the beast that affects us all nowadays – email.  Love its simplicity but hate its ability to multiply before your very eyes?  Well you won’t be alone!

Recently, a recommendation in the comments section of  a blog referred to a book called: Lifehacker

Coincidentally, I actually had that book on my i-pad having liked its general approach to working smarter, faster and better, for a while.  It has simple, straightforward approaches, nothing is unattainable and some things are more suitable to individuals in the day job than others, so it offers choice in what you run with.  So it seems timely to look at a problem we will all have had at one time or another:

“How do you control your e-mail?”

Lifehacker outlines 10 ways to get on top of an overfull in-box.  We will look at them separately, and I ask you to choose carefully the ones you want to try, but above all, stick with it and be disciplined in your adoption of your chosen approaches.  The 10 approaches are as follows:

  • Empty your in box – everything should have its own place, and the inbox is not it!
  • Decrease  your response time
  • Craft effective messages
  • Highlight Messages sent directly to you
  • Use disposable e-mail addresses
  • Master message search
  • Future-proof your e-mail address
  • Consolidate multiple e-mail addresses
  • Script and automate repetitive replies
  • Filter low priority messages

The beast called e-mail is so important, I think we will focus on an element a week.  If you have any top tips to add, please, please do so in the comments section.   The chapter on e-mail management suggests you can reduce the amount of time you spend fiddling with e-mail to less than 30-minutes per day.  That alone has to be worth the time it takes to read the chapter don’t you think?  So here we go with week 1, tackling the mammoth task of emptying that obese in box!!!

I personally love the three folder approach of:

  • archive – longer term reference library – no subfolders, thats cheating!
  • follow up – things that must be completed – if you use the Important/Urgent matrix, this folder is for things which are important
  • hold – temporary holding pen for things you’ll need quick access to within the next day or so – again, if you use the matrix, then these are your Urgent things.  Although the chapter says review this folder weekly, I review mine daily, at the beginning of the day.

Top tips I use daily include:

  • opening oldest messages first and delete irrelevances immediately
  • if the action required will take more than one minute to do, move it to the follow up folder (end of the day review)
  • I colour code with a rule, those messages from people who are my key customers or stakeholders, so I can be drawn to them instantly
  • make a decision about the fate of every message you read at the time you read it. No excuses!

So, here endeth week 1 of “Managing E-mail”.  Whats your top tip?

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Sharon Davidson
Organisational development professional specialising in personal, team and whole organisation improvement. Full range of OD tools and techniques available including: Belbin team role analysis; learning style inventories; 360 degree feedback; cultural assessments; personality psychometrics; strategic planning and workshop facilitation. (This list is not exhaustive!)

Improvement is everyone's concern: +44 1550 720902 will start that process today.

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  • Alison Crawford says:

    Thanks, will be trying some of these tips out!

  • Aresko says:

    Good, thats the plan Alison 🙂 I applied the three mail folders to my home mail system last night and I’m glad to say, it worked a treat. Good luck and let us know how its going.

  • Peggy Edwards says:

    I have nothing in my inbox! I did the radical sort out a couple of weeks ago (see blog) and I have stuck to it. I know Sharon says you can’t have sub folders but I have 4; important / urgent, awaiting response, reading and pending (will get rid of pending this week and not really using it). I also ‘see and treat’ each email, I read and quickly either answer it immediately or file it into the relevant folder. Then during the day when I have time I go through the important ones and I only have about 23 left in there at the end of the day. Interestingly as they are not staring at me from the in box I am must less stressed about them. Can I aso suggest not keeping your email open on the screen all the time, shrink it or close it and schedule email time each day. It isn’t then screaming for your attention. I used to have a boss, you know who you are, who would have regular daily diary slots for office work which we used to respect.
    Thing I really need to know is how to control the amount of emails I send……now that is a challenge.

  • Aresko says:

    Ah now, thats coming up in week 2 Peggy – keep reading!

  • Aresko says:

    I have 2 in my in box, both of which came in after leaving the office this evening. Got it down from 2000+ using this approach. It works! Nuff said!!

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