Email is a great invention and can be a useful tool, but it can also be a distraction and a time suck. This week we'll look at some ways to manage email so it enhances, rather than inhibits, our productivity.
A Few Thoughts on Managing Email Efficiently & Effectively
I love the way email lets me communicate with family, friends, clients, and colleagues. But recently I've been feeling like it sometimes makes me less productive, rather than more.
1. Email challenges/pitfalls.
- Too many email accounts
- Constant distraction and interruption
- Too much junk
- Time wasted looking for lost messages
2. Streamline the process of reading email.
- Skim and delete
- Turn off alerts
- Get a really good spam filter
- Use auto-replies to buy yourself some undisturbed time (and not just for out-of-office messages). One of several good tips from “Getting Organized: 11 Tips for Managing Email.”
- Handle messages once
- If you can, check email only at certain times of the day. (I can't use this tip, but maybe you can.)
3. Make your digital life work better by organizing email.
- Two options:
- topic or project folders
- few folders, and reliance on search
- Use meaningful subject lines to help you find emails later
- Use saved searches and smart folders
- Use rules to sort incoming email
4. Be smart about the way you write email.
- Use informative subject lines (and edit the subject line as necessary when you reply)
- Keep it short and easy to read
- Create a simple but useful email signature
- Use groups or distribution lists
- Double-check recipient names and email addresses before you hit send
- Save time by using templates or text expander apps (I use and love TextExpander by Smile Software)
- Think (and then think again) before sending an email written when angry or emotional
A Few More Resources
- “Managing Email Effectively”
- “Managing Email When Your Inbox is Overloaded“
- Podcast episodes: Mac Power Users 164: Tackling Email and 224: The Email Problem
- Outstanding, in-depth resource: David Sparks's Email Field Guide
What do you think?
Is managing email a challenge for you, or do you have it mastered? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.
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