Blog: Working From Home
Prevail Over Email
While email is clearly an essential tool in business today, unscrupulous marketers have made it an annoyance by filling our inboxes with spam. In addition, well-meaning friends who aren't as busy as we are send us bits of useless information, stale jokes and links to irrelevant articles. As a result, even though most of what we receive each day is welcome and important to our business, email has acquired a bad reputation.
At the same time, email has become a socially acceptable addiction. It's something easy to do when you want to get away from something else—a tiresome project, or a difficult challenge. It appeals to the same psychological mechanism that draws us to the refrigerator, to smoking, to drinking or to surfing the Internet.
Email is so seductive because it holds the excitement of the unknown. Something interesting could be waiting—a message from someone you'll be happy to hear from, even a problem that needs taking care of, but something that will surely distract you from whatever it is you should be doing.
Managing the avalanche of daily emails is the #1 complaint of office workers these days. If you're working solo, you need to deal with email because there's no one to delegate messages to—you're it! Experts recommend the following techniques for controlling email:
Eliminate unnecessary emails.
Unsubscribe from newsletters, chat rooms and other ongoing communications that aren't important or useful. Create filters for messages you don't want to see and people you don't want to hear from so those emails never reach your inbox at all. They will be diverted to your spam folder.
Remember, legitimate email you wouldn't want to miss also occasionally lands in your spam folder. So check it every day or two to make sure something hasn't been delivered there by mistake. Permanently delete the rest.
Don't process emails first thing in the morning.
If you want to make progress on important projects, do them first thing in the morning before looking at email or listening to voicemail. Any given day's email is sure to contain issues that will lead you astray. Email and voicemail can almost always wait for a couple of hours until you take care of the one or two really critical tasks that must be done right away. If a real emergency arises, you can be sure someone will call you on the telephone rather than sending you an email.
Don't use your inbox as a to-do list.
Continually reviewing a list of emails you haven't dealt with is a complete waste of time—the equivalent of going through stacks of paper on your desk over and over, reminding yourself of things you need to do without actually doing them.
Move them to a Pending folder or better yet, paste them into your Outlook or Google electronic calendar on the day you have decided to act on them. Leaving them in your inbox is guaranteed to make you feel overwhelmed.
Remember, email is a tool—not your job.
Your to-do list is more important than your email. Keep things in perspective and don't let email take over your day. If you're not careful, you can waste large chunks of time without much to show for it. Accept the idea that ignoring some emails may be necessary given your other priorities.
Consider adding a notice to your signature block that states the times of day you check email and suggests calling if the issue cannot wait. This will lower expectations that you will respond immediately to every message. Most people will think twice before interrupting you with a phone call unless the matter really is urgent.
However excessive and frustrating it may be, email remains the tool of choice for business communications. Learn to use it without sacrificing your productivity.
posted on: 2/27/2011 9:00:00 AM by Elaine Quinn, Author & Speaker
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