Saturday, August 18, 2007

How to have a lean email - how to effectively manage your email

Do you have 1000 + emails in your inbox?
do you lose track of the emails that you should be working on?
do you open or read the same email more that 2 or 3 times?
do you think that you spend more time reading emails than doing real work?

If you are responding yes to one or more of these questions, then you have a problem and your problem is that you do not have a system to manage your email.

What you need to do is the follow the next 3 simple steps:

1- Set aside time to read your email.
2- Act upon emails
3- Use your inbox as your "to do" list.

Now let me explain a little bit in detail each of this steps:

1- Set aside time to read your email

Avoid reading email throughout the day, a lot of people can not get work done because they read an email every time the get one. To avoid this, set aside time in your schedule to read your emails. Yes!, create a recurrent appointment everyday where you can concentrate only on your emails. Do not feel prisoner of your email, you are not going to miss anything if you are not looking at your inbox every minute!

If something is really important or somebody need you to do something, you are going to received a call for sure, or somebody is going to come to your desk and ask you about that important thing. So, from now own be the person in charge, control the time that you spend working on your emails.

By doing this you can get much more work done.

Act Upon your emails

Read your emails only once, when your open an email try to act on that email immediately, either you have to respond to somebody or forward the email to somebody or delete the email (if the email was only for information) or archive the email.

Now, I can hear you saying that there are times when you can not respond right away, so you can not act upon your email because you do not have the answer yet or because you have to talk to somebody else first. In those cases, what I do is to send the same email to myself and I will write in the body of the email the things that I have to do. Sometimes if the email is time sensitive, I would put the date on the subject and I would create a reminder. By doing this I will not forget what I have to do with the email (because I wrote all that in the body of the email). Ah! do not forget to delete or archive the original email, because now you have your email with the reminder and the things that you need to do.

When you send an email I also recommend to use the following methodology:

Ask yourself the following questions before you send the email:

- What is the purpose of this communication and does it relate to an objective?

- What action is required; is there a due date; and who owns the action?

- What supporting documentation does the recipient need?

- Does the subject line effectively summarize the e-mail message?

By doing this you will help the recipient to answer your emails in the way you need.

3- Use your inbox as your "to do" list.

Use your email inbox as your “to do” list, your inbox should not have more that 100 emails, I think 50 0r 30 is good, less than 20 optimal. If you have more than that in your email inbox that would mean that you have a lot of unresolved things to do and that is an indication that you are not managing effectively your time and your tasks.
Your inbox is not a storage place; if you need to archive something do it the right way; using folders and your preferred archiving method.

Follow these 3 steps and you will soon find that you have more time that what you thought you have. At the beginning it would be tough to get into the new habit, but if you stick to it, you will be amaze with the results.

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