Previously, I mentioned planning to do a few articles on e-mail. Here are some ideas from my own experiences and other sources on the Internet. Keep in mind, not everything mentioned here will work for everyone. However, if you can adopt a few of these ideas you will be much better off going forward on the e-mail front.
E-mail Auto-Check: How often does your e-mail do an auto-check? I used to have mine check every 5 minutes. After a year or so doing that in a work situation I decided it was just a continuous interruption. Let’s face it, if you stop to do e-mail you are not doing your work. So, here is a recommendation not only from my personal experience, but several knowledgeable people around the net. Set your auto-check in your e-mail program to at least 20 minutes. If you can get away with it set it for 30 or even 60 minutes. Then, you do e-mail processing blitzes, processing your e-mails as fast and accurately as you are able. Then, back to work!! The benefits to this methodology are many less interruptions and an increase in large blocks of work time. Hopefully, this will result in greater productivity. It has for me. If you do not have some type of system for processing e-mail this may not be as effective. I will talk about e-mail processing in a later episode. If you are working for the NSA or the CIA and you must check your e-mail every minute, then by all means do it. Not too many of us fall into this category though.
Write Less: What a novel concept. Not every e-mail needs to be an epic story. Sometimes I get e-mails from people that are 3 or 4 paragraphs long. Are you kidding me? It’s not like they are explaining the meltdown procedure for a nuclear reactor or anything. Most of these kinds of e-mails could have been reduced to 3 or 4 sentences. It is really fun to give these kinds of e-mails a one word reply; like “no” or something like that. I am talking about “work” e-mail now. I have friends that I do e-mail several paragraphs. You could call those pleasure e-mails. But, in a work environment, e-mails should be efficient and respectful of other peoples time. I try to do all my e-mails in 5 sentences or less. Most of the time I can do them in 2 sentences. It saves other people time, it saves me time.
Quick Responses: This is part and parcel with “Write Less” above. When you do process your e-mail (hopefully, at 20 minutes or more intervals), quickly retire all the e-mails you can with a short 1-2 line response. If you can knock these babies off, say with 30-60 seconds each, then do it. You will be surprised how quickly your inbox will thin out using the Quick Response rule.
There are many other ideas about getting a handle on e-mail. I will try to cover more in future episodes. In the meantime, try implementing some or all of these suggestions. You won’t regret it.