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Do you receive dozens to hundreds of emails each day? Does it seem that a disproportionate amount of your professional time is spent reading and replying to messages? Have you ever sent a heated or sloppy email you wish you could take back? The following are seven email management tips that can help you save time, and raise productivity, excerpted from my book: (click on title) “Confident Communication Skills at the Workplace“. Not all of these suggestions may apply to your particular situation. Simply take what ideas you can use and leave the rest.
1. Establish a regular block of time each day to answer emails.
One of the most time consuming and productivity draining tasks at work is answering individual emails as they come in throughout the day. Generally speaking, unless your job is email driven, the amount of time spent on emails should not exceed, at the very most, twenty-five percent of your workday. Establish a regular regiment of answering emails only during a specific period each day. This is separate from the important emails you initiate, which can be written at any time. There may be an occasional exception, such as when you have an important email from your boss or customer. For the most part, however, stick with the time frame so you can be more efficient with your work.
2. Prioritize your emails and answer only the most important.
During your designated email time, prioritize the incoming emails as either “A: must answer,” “B: should answer,” or “C: could answer.” Focus on answering all the “A”s and some of the “B”s. Skip the “C”s. One of the most important rules of time management is to separate the important from the urgent. By prioritizing your emails and answering only the most important messages, you can dramatically increase your productivity.
3. Answer your emails not individually, but in batches.
If you receive multiple emails from a co-worker or team each day, answer with just one reply. The one message outlines your replies to all recent correspondence. Once you begin this practice, don’t be surprised if some of your colleagues follow your example, leading to overall reduced email traffic.
4. Let your colleagues know you only answer emails during a certain time of day.
This tip may or may not be appropriate in your particular situation, but it’s worth considering. With colleagues who expect instant email replies on a regular basis, let them know that you have a set-schedule for answering messages. Some co-workers like to send streams of short emails and expect you to answer each one right back as if you’re conversing or texting. Others may email you with detailed requests and expect you to respond right away. Both behaviors show a disregard of your time. There’s a time management saying: “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” You’re in charge of your time. Stick to your email schedule and teach your colleagues to respect it.
5. Save and review your most important messages before clicking “send.”
Our writing is an important aspect of our professional brand. Messages that contain multiple spelling, grammar, and other writing mistakes can create the perception that the author is careless, impulsive, or simply a poor writer — not the impressions you want to create if you desire professional respect and advancement. Before sending out an important email, save it, do something else for a few minutes, then come back and proof read. You may be surprised and relieved at the mistakes you find.
6. Treat each work related email as potential public information.
The messages you send and receive via company email are the property of your employer. They can be surveilled, flagged, and in some cases used as evidence to support punitive measures or legal action. A joint survey of the American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute found that two out of three companies monitor web use. In addition, your colleagues may show or forward your “confidential” emails to others without your permission.
Avoid writing messages on your company email that are angry in tone, attacking in words, gossipy in nature, or offensive in humor. Most importantly, avoid leaking confidential or sensitive company information to those who are not authorized to know. If you think an email you’re about to send could potentially get you into trouble, it may be wise to click “delete” instead. The same applies to your instant messages and social networking activity via company property.
For more on how to deal with difficult colleagues and managers, see my book (click on title): “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People“.
7. Consider a branding statement as part of your email signature.
In the signature portion of each work email you send, it’s smart branding to include a short statement which represents your professional vision or values. They individualize who you are to the recipient, and serve as a reminder of your product or service. Some professionals include a personalized logo as well. Here are two examples:
Molly Prichard, The Growth and Adventure Company
“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Marie Louise Diaz, Author and Blogger
Sharing stories of ordinary women with extraordinary courage.
In conclusion, if you’re inundated with work emails, you can either control them, or let them control you. The astute professional manages emails wisely, and as a result increases both the quality and quantity job performance. It’s one aspect of leadership success.
For more on professional success, see my books (click on titles):