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How To Prevent Email Overload
Question: I run a small business and I'm at my wits' end trying to hold back the constant tide of incoming emails. What can I do?
Answer: Email was meant to make our lives easier, but many people have ended up feeling stressed-out by their inboxes. Thanks to email, mobile phones and text messaging, we're expected to be on call 24/7 – even when we're out of the country. So all of us need the skills to manage emails more efficiently, before our stress levels increase even further. The ideal would be to tackle email overload at its source – by preventing emails from arriving in the first place. Most email programs have filters to separate ‘spam' emails from the ones we actually want, but can still direct emails to the wrong mailbox. It's important therefore to check your junk mailbox as regularly as your inbox, and make sure that ‘junk' emails really are before deleting them -otherwise you'll end up simply adding to your problems.
Whatever size your business, you'll also be familiar with colleagues who feel the need to copy you on every email they send – whether or not they're relevant to you. And then there are all the people who requested your email address when you signed up for a flight / concert ticket / online purchase etc – all of which makes managing your inbox even more challenging.
Research suggests that many people are starting work earlier and earlier, simply to deal with the emails that confront them every day. I know many people who come into work an hour earlier each day and work an hour extra at the end of the day – just to catch up.
If this is happening to you, 12 simple rules will help ‘control the inrushing tide'. You need to manage your email the same way as you manage your time: being organised is the key to ‘good email management'!
1. Set aside time to deal with your emails – don't just react when the prompt sounds. Deal with email once or twice a day, but don't spend more than half an hour on it at any one time.
2. Return unwanted emails – only then will the sender realise you didn't want them. Don't do this with unsolicited email though, as this can confirm to the sender that your address is ‘active'.
3. Don't open emails with attachments from people you don't know – they may contain viruses.
4. Structure your mailbox – use folders to keep your messages well organised.
5. Have a box for urgent, non-urgent and nice to read, so that when you need a break away from your day-to-day working, you have your reading email box waiting for you.
6. Be careful to flag up everything you have read. It's very easy to read an email and THINK you have responded when you haven't. This can be a problem if the recipient asks if you have given a response and you think you HAVE when you HAVEN'T!
7. Before sending an email, select the best medium for your message. Is email the most appropriate and do you really need to send one? Many people have stopped phoning or walking round the office to see a colleague rather than emailing them.
8. Make the purpose of your email clear. Put as much detail as possible in the subject line to help the recipient.
9. Use short words and sentences, and check your attachments before sending – many are unnecessary and could just as easily be included in the message itself.
10. Show consideration to the recipient by allowing time for a response. Expecting one immediately is unreasonable.
11. Never send an email when you're tired or angry.
12.Always check the addressee(s) and don't just copy everyone. You can cause considerable upset by emailing the wrong person!
Your company may or may not have an email policy, but this needs to be the responsibility of each and every individual. Be responsible for each email that you send out. Does this individual need to be aware of the information you are sending them? Do they need to be copied in on this email?
Email is a wonderful tool but it needs to be managed. Keep in control of it – rather than it being in control of you!
What's your opinion?
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