Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Changing Your Email Habits to Simplify Your Life

Control Email So It Doesn't Control You

Many of us couldn’t do our jobs without email – so it’s ironic that email is often the very thing that prevents us from doing our jobs. Even if you’ve managed to weed out inbox-clogging spam with software like CMIT Anti-Spam, you might still have problems coping with the volume of legitimate email communication you receive every day. Here are a few tips to keep you focused, available and responsive without staying chained to your inbox 24/7.


1. Set a schedule for checking your email and stick to it. Decide that you’ll only check email twice a day, for example, and set up an autoresponder to let people know how often and at what time of day you’ll be checking it. If people have more urgent concerns, they can pick up the telephone and call you.


2. Close the loop as quickly as possible. Don’t keep an email chain going for four or five rounds by asking a series of questions; batch all of those questions together and, if possible, suggestions for how to resolve them.


3. Keep your filing system simple. Many people file away every piece of correspondence they send or receive in a series of arcane, nested folders. While you may need to keep all those emails, either for regulatory reasons or just peace of mind, a complicated filing structure can present serious impediments to both proper filing and retrieval. With email search capabilities improving all the time, you might find that all you need are an archive, a folder for longer-term follow up items, and a folder for tasks in process.


Filters that automatically send items to archive, delete, or specific folders can also help you to focus on the day’s most pressing tasks instead of sorting through items with predictable content. For example, professional newsletters, periodic alerts, or distribution-list mailings tend not to require the same attention as an email from one coworker to you and you alone.


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