4 Tips On Taming Your Email
I remember when I was first introduced to email. I was working in a big corporation at the time. I thought it was the neatest thing since sliced bread. I hit a button and the message is sent instantaneously. What could be better? Since then, my feelings towards email are somewhat modified. I still think the technology is great, but I have witnessed too many people getting stressed out by the sheer volume of communications via this medium to know that for some it can sometimes be a curse instead of a blessing. Since none of us is expecting a reduction in the volume of email we will receive, you may find the following tips helpful in helping gain control over your email.
Keep in mind that this article is designed to help you manage your emails related to work. If you do not have separate email accounts for your work and personal life, my very first suggestion is to get that set up right now. There are numerous options for free email accounts. Do yourself a favor and set one up for your personal activities, like shopping on-line, or subscribing to ezines for your outside interests. That way, you won't waste precious time weeding through the latest sales offers from Amazon while you are trying to concentrate on work.
Tip #1 - Handle each message once if at all possible
Treat the email like a piece of paper. If it is short enough for you to read on the screen, decide what action you need to take to "handle" it. If it was an information only message, then either file it or delete it afterwards. Do not just leave it in your in-box for later because it will take you more time to read it again and figure out what to do.
Unfortunately, a good percentage of the messages I used to get were multi-pages long with multiple attachments. In those cases, I found it very difficult to read the contents on the screen. My suggestion is to print out the entire content and quickly decide if you want to deal with it now or later.
Tip #2 - Don't be stingy with folders
In order to file a message you want to keep, you have to have a destination for it. The only reason why you want to file something is if you think you want to access the information again. So, the easier it is for you to find it, the more efficient you will be. Create as many folders and sub-folders as you need in order to expedite your search for the information in the future. It will take way less time to find a particular message in a folder with 30 items versus 300 items.
Tip #3 - Don't be an email pack-rat
Are you someone who saves every message just in case you will need it later? If you are, break yourself of that habit right now! Unless you have to retain documents for compliance reasons, the "just in case" scenario does not happen often enough to warrant the clutter you are creating for yourself. When you surround yourself with clutter, it drains energy from you, and clutters your mind. So, be very selective about what you need to keep. And I will bet you money that if you really needed something that you didn't keep, you can find another copy (usually from the originator) pretty easily.
Tip #4 - Leave ONLY messages that you need to act on in your "Inbox"
Having an Inbox with hundreds of messages will overwhelm anyone. And being in overwhelm is not going to help your productivity or your mind-set. So, if you still have to read that 10 page email you received, leave it in your Inbox until you have read it and know what you have to do. But if you've already read that concise one page message from your boss and answered her question, then either delete it, or move it to a subject folder.
When I was in the corporate world, I had an objective of keeping my Inbox to fewer than 30 items because I know that I would start to feel out-of-control when there are too many items in there. And I would feel very proud of myself when I get the list to 15 or fewer because that meant that I was very close to getting "caught up".
There you have it - these are the top 4 things I do to keep my email under control. If you found this information useful and would like more tips on this subject, let me know (via email, I suppose) and I'll let you in on more of my secrets in a follow-up article.
© 2004 Inez O. Ng