You know it well and may even loathe it. It’s the barrage of e-mails you face day after day, most of them legitimate, the rest not.
The average business user receives and sends 122 e-mail messages a day, according to a 2015 study performed by The Radicati Group, Inc., a technology market research firm based in Palo Alto, Calif.1 About 88 of those emails are incoming, and 12 of them are junk/spam that managed to get delivered despite email filtering tools.
Tackling your inbox can be a burdensome time hog, but it doesn’t have to be. Employing certain strategies can help you streamline the process.
1. Set up a filing system. Create folders in your e-mail program, just like you would in a filing cabinet, suggests Craig Jarrow, author of the book Time Management Ninja.2 Name them according to your needs. Examples are “Expenses,” “Bids” or “Client Correspondence.” When appropriate, you’ll transfer e-mails out of your inbox into these folders.
2. Set up an auto archive. Configure your e-mail program to automatically archive all e-mails over two weeks old. This imposes a soft deadline and clears inbox space, but your e-mails remain available should you need them.
3. Schedule uninterrupted time to process e-mail. If you’re repeatedly interrupted while sorting through mass quantities of e-mail, you’re ineffectively using your time. Also, you need a clear mind and focus to decide what to do with each message, according to Microsoft at Work, an online Microsoft site that offers information for being more productive on the job.
4. Work from newest to oldest. While your instinct may be to start with the oldest, don’t, Jarrow advises. Oftentimes, the topic in an old e-mail has been updated in newer ones. So starting with the newest will get you up to speed the fastest and save you the time of reading obsolete or resolved info.
5. Apply “The Four D’s for Decision Making” model: delete, do, delegate, defer. McGhee Productivity Solutions, a Colorado firm that helps companies increase performance, recommends processing one e-mail at a time, choosing and using one of these four Ds to handle it.3 Delete the e-mail if it doesn’t relate to any current project or issue; if you can find the info elsewhere; if you won’t refer to it in the next three to six months; and if it’s not legal or human resources related. Do (respond to or file) the e-mail if it’ll take fewer than two minutes. Delegate the e-mail to someone else, if applicable. Defer (transfer to your to-do list or calendar) the e-mail if it’s an action item requiring more than two minutes.
6. Respond to e-mails only when necessary. Not every e-mail requires a response, Jarrow says. For instance, avoid sending “Thank you” replies. If you free yourself from believing you have to answer every message, you’ll be able to get them out of your inbox faster. Also, you reduce insignificant back-and-forth messages.
7. Use mobile e-mail when away from your computer. Use your cell phone, laptop or other mobile electronic device when possible to delete, quickly reply or sort e-mails, suggests the E-mail Experience Council, a New York-based organization that works to enhance the image of email marketing and communications.
8. Never reply to a spam message or click on their links. Doing so only helps perpetuate spam. It also could get your computer infected with malware or other harmful undesirables.
9. Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software current. Do this to protect yourself and others. If you do, you’ll avoid becoming part of a botnet—a hacker-usurped computer network used to create and send most of today’s spam.
10. Set an example. If you use e-mail etiquette, perhaps others will take note and follow suit. For example, don’t send joke e-mails. Don’t “Reply to All” or “CC” people unnecessarily. Use descriptive subject lines incorporating words like “Reminder,” “Action Needed” or “FYI” to help recipients when they’re managing their inbox.
“Get tough with your e-mail,” Jarrow says. “Go on a rampage to get it under control. Then be consistent.”
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.