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HSMAI Insight: Be More Productive with These Strategies for Taming the Email Beast

2012-02-14

In our "need it now" society, where access to email is accessible 24/7, Dean encourages participants to take control of how and how often they check and respond to emails.

 

According to Dean, the average travel-related professional spends 4 to 6 hours a day reading, responding and administering emails; yet only 1 to 3% have had strategic email management training.

 

He admits taming the email beast is difficult but offers several strategies to make the job easier.

 

"People are afraid that if they delete the emails they'll need them or if they file them they won't be able to find them," he says. "Cleaning out your email is a secondary goal. The key is to figure out what's important and needs to be acted on quickly and what's not."

 

Strategy 1: Divide and conquer. Dean suggests multiple email accounts to manage the different types of mail-a professional email for work only, a personal email (which should never be used at work) and an Internet account for any web-based transactions. Doing so will help keep work and personal life separate and cut down on spam infiltration. "Your work and personal emails should almost act like unlisted phone numbers," he said.

 

Strategy 2: Establish a three-minute, one-touch rule. Dean has followed this rule for 20 years and says it's a great clutter buster. Each email you receive, he says, you should touch one time. "Decide what you're going to do with it. It doesn't mean you have to do it then but you are deciding what will be done." He walked participants through a primer on efficient use of Microsoft Outlook's calendar, contacts and tasks folders to help manage the appropriate responses to email.

 

Strategy 3: Don't be a "blinger." Like Pavlov's dogs, people are conditioned to check email as soon as they hear their new mail alert. Dean encourages people to not be constantly connected, instead checking at set points throughout the day. "If you are attending to email in real?time, you are in a state of never?ending distraction and will be spinning your wheels all day," he says. "Resist that temptation by turning off sound notifications. You need some blocks of time to actually get work done while still responding appropriately to clients, co?workers and your boss. Learn to balance productivity with responsiveness."

 

Strategy 4: Build a sensible file structure. It's easier to manage email, Dean says, if you have a file structure that is easy to manage and organize. The more complicated you make it, the harder time you'll have finding things when you need them.

 

Strategy 5: Empty your inbox every day. "Do it, task it, delete it," he says.

 

Strategy 6: Manage CCs, forwards and replies. Save yourself and the recipient of your email time and energy by being precise and specific about the action you are expecting. "At the top of every email you forward, tell the person why they are getting, it, what they need to do and when they need to do it."

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