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How to Stop the E-mail Insanity

(posted: May 13th, 2009)

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.

This blog post was originally posted at The Nutmeg Laywer.

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