19 December 2007

Handling emails

You would think that something seemingly simple like answering emails would not be a great source for increasing your productivity, but just think about the following:

  • How many times a day is your attention diverted away from what you’re doing because an email arrives?
  • How much time do you spend every day sorting and deleting junk emails?
  • How much time do you spend reading and answering emails every day?
  • Do you prioritise emails by importance or do you just try to get everything answered as quickly as possible?
  • How large a percentage of the emails you receive from colleagues, clients or business partners are relevant to your company’s, your personal objectives and/or job tasks?

Chances are that you will quickly realise that you are easily wasting away 2 – 3 hours every single day doing things that are completely irrelevant in terms of reaching your goals and aspirations. Does this mean that you’re only doing a 5 – 6 hour working day or does it mean that you end up spending 2 – 3 hours extra in the office in order to do your job? Does this, in turn, mean that you’re one of those stressed out individuals who never has time for his/her friends and family and are always tired because you’re working a 12 hour day? Why not start by dealing with the biggest time waster of all in your daily life… your email?

Over the next few months you will see a number of articles on how better to handle your emails in order to improve productivity, but here are a few quick tips to get you started:

  1. Allocate two or three short periods a day (e.g. 15 – 20 minutes each) to read and respond to email – and DON’T let it interrupt you for the rest of the day. Personally, I read my emails at the start of the working day, just after lunch and again as the last thing I do before leaving the office, which leads me onto rule no. 2.
  2. Always clear your inbox at the end of the day. A cluttered inbox is like a cluttered desk. It stresses you out and means that you feel behind before even leaving the office. This is a vicious circle that is to be avoided.
  3. Use “Folders” to organise your emails
  4. Set up rules for handling newsletters so that they automatically go into folders where you can then allocate time to read them on a daily or weekly basis.
  5. When scanning your emails quickly determine the IMPORTANCE and URGENCY of each email. If it’s important AND urgent, make sure you respond to it right away.

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