How to Handle Your E-Mail More Effectively

E-mail consumes more time than we ever thought possible. People can write an e-mail and communicate with someone else without ever having to speak to that person directly.

Depending on how you communicate with your vendors, cus­tomers, and staff, you can become inundated with e-mail questions and details that need to be addressed every day. This can consume hours of your time and can keep you from your more important tasks.

Here are some ways to keep e-mail under control:

Be selective about when you review your e-mail. Select a couple of times during the day to check and respond to e-mail. A good time to do this is just before lunch around 11:30 am and right before leaving work for the day.

E-mail should be treated just like regular mail. Scan every e-mail and decide whether you should delete it, reply to it now, put it in a folder for reference or to handle later, or forward it to someone else who needs to handle it. The rule of thumb is that if the e-mail will take under 2 minutes to handle, and it’s something you can respond to, then just reply to it and get it out of the way.

Have several e-mail addresses that you can use for different purposes, but that all funnel into your main account or into different folders if you choose to do so. You can use one address when e-mailing friends or clients, one when you book tickets or purchase products, and one that people can respond to from your web site. And be sure to be selective when giving out your e-mail address.

Set up filters and rules so that e-mail from certain sources goes di­rectly into folders and you can review them together. You can have e-mail messages that get color-coded or highlighted, depending on who they’re coming from. You can have your spam filter direct spam e-mail to an appropriate folder so they don’t clog up your inbox. This helps to make reviewing your e-mail much easier and highlights the most important e-mail you need to handle first.

Train your staff on how to communicate with you, especially with e-mail. Let them know what information should be e-mailed, when to Skype, instant message, or text, and when it’s best to just pick up the phone. E-mail is great for anything that needs to be documented or scheduled; use Skype or instant message if you need a quick answer; and call when you need to discuss something or if there is an imme­diate problem that needs a resolution.

Turn off your e-mail if you want to get real work done. You can set up your e-mail so you can manually decide when you want to receive messages by pressing the Send/Receive button. This is best so you don’t get distracted when you hear the beep that you’ve automatically received an e-mail. And don’t be tempted to take a look. You’ll end up spending more time than you imagined, and it will take you longer to get back to what you were originally doing.