I say email is dying! New generations are moving towards texting to communicate — I welcome that improvement! But email is still around for the short term — and if you're like me — you get hundreds of emails a day. And if you're like a lot of my clients, it's hard to navigate all that email without a few tricks. So here they are:
1. Eliminate your email alert setting in Outlook or MacMail. If you find yourself watching the email alert bar move up and down or the small circle alerting you to the number of unread emails - you're letting email control YOUR life.
2. Read certain times of the day. Set up times during the day to read your email — say 9 AM, Noon, and 4 PM. Otherwise, do real work. If it's an emergency, let everyone know to call, stop by or text message you with an 'URGENT' or 'IMPORTANT' header.
3. Take action, delete or file. So many people who jump into email and need to jump out quickly tend not to act on emails. They scan and then move on — they know they need to do something with the email, but they don't have the time. So they whip through their list and then rush off to a meeting. If you commit to an email, read it and then act, delete or file. It's that easy.
4. Don't start chain emails, pick up the phone. Even better, instead of writing a long and boring response email (that no one will really read), pick up the phone and take care of the issue immediately.
5. If it isn't filed, trash it. I know it's hard, but kill email whenever you can.
6. Don't print emails — only if you REALLY have too. If you print, you have now brought the electronic into the real world. And you have to now find a place for all those emails. Good luck!
7. Minimal file folders — no parent/child lists. I love it when people have HUGE lists of file folders and sub-folders. Don't you know about search? I use search every day and it works perfectly.
8. Clean up daily. If you decide to file the email, do it immediately and don't let them build up. At the end of every year, I bunch up all of my filed emails and archive them. Guess what? I only access the archive a few times a year. Go figure.
9. Email is a POOR communication vehicle. You have to realize email causes a lot of problems — missed messages, hurt feelings, arguments, unnecessary wasted time, etc. It's NOT 2-way communication. Pick up the phone or stop by the person's office. And if it's really important, set up a (short) meeting.
10. Don't worry. So many people obsess about email — they love to complain about it. A number of years ago, I took an approved sabbatical from work for 30 days (we were allowed those back then). I set up an email rule to let everyone know not to email me (I wouldn't be reading them) and that I would be back in 30 days. Guess what? I still received 3750 emails. Under the advice of my coach, I:
- Took the emails and filed them in their own file folder named 'Sabbatical'.
- I only read emails from my boss to me.
- I only accessed that file five times over the next three months.