Mind Your Email

Mind Your Email and Save Yourself Some Time

Woman frustrated with email.Do you get hundreds of emails a day? Do you waste countless hours reading and responding to it? Some estimate that employees spend 40% of their time sifting through a bulging inbox. As a small business owner you can’t afford to waste the day away with tasks that don’t earn you money, and if you’re not careful, emailing can become one of those tasks. If you feel that your email manages you rather than the other way around, you need to take action and cut back on your email use. Here are just a few ways to do that:File emailOrganizing your email can help you find necessary information more quickly. Just as you file important documents in your office, it makes sense to take the time to create proper files for your email so you can manage it more efficiently.Reduce junk mailYou inbox may appear more overwhelming than it actually is. If this is the case, junk mail is probably the culprit. Don’t sign up for email notifications, listservs, etc. if you expect them to crowd your inbox later. Take yourself off unnecessary mailing lists and report spam so that you can cut back on the junk mail that increases the time you spend in your inbox.Schedule time to read and send emailEmail often takes over your day if you open and respond to messages as they come in. Schedule a time to read and respond to email, say an hour a day, and try to keep within that time frame. Perhaps you spend 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening minding your inbox. That allows you to spend the rest of your day attending to weightier tasks like billable hours.Consider holding a live meeting insteadSometimes an email exchange can turn into a monster, requiring long responses from both parties that become confusing and convoluted. If you find yourself sending a potential email monster, ask yourself if a quick, live meeting (even on the phone) would save you time.Confront email addictsSome people are email addicts. You know who they are (perhaps you happen to be one yourself!). They like to forward email, be it relevant or not. They like to send lots of shorter emails that take more time to open, read and respond than longer, more effective emails. Email addicts also tend to be electronically needy, wanting more and more of your emails. If you find yourself pestered by an email addict, consider confronting the offender. This can be easily done. Simply suggest they cut back on their emails, gathering their questions and concerns into one message instead of multiple messages. And because you’re running a business it makes sense to communicate your need to limit the irrelevant and silly emails that may come your way.Mind your outgoing mailSometimes we invite countless emails by our own email use. The following may help limit the responses you receive or make responses easier to manage:

  • Choose your “subjects” well. Often we choose ambiguous subjects that make it difficult to find pertinent information later. Use the subject line to summarize rather than describe. For example, instead of simply titling your email “Accounting Deadline,” include specifics that will make it easier to find this particular email strain later: “Please submit payroll information by May 30th.”
  • Refrain from unnecessary replies. In an effort to be polite we often write responses that are unnecessary and crowd the receiver’s inbox (it also acts as a subtle clue that you expect them to do the same in return). Avoid sending emails with short and unnecessary responses like “thanks” or “that’s great!” or “take care.”
  • Avoid CC mania. This probably happens less in our profession, but it’s worth mentioning. Emailers often we go cc crazy when emailing, copying countless people who don’t really need this particular message in their inbox. Ask yourself who this message really needs to go to and limit your use of the cc feature.

Often in modeling good email usage you’ll find that your inbox will become even more manageable. By taking a few preventative measures you can avoid an unruly inbox and become more effective at your electronic communication.