Email – combining manners with efficiency

It’s quite a struggle to keep up with everything that comes at us in this technological age, we have to develop prioritising skils  more than ever before and it’s tempting to focus on our own world of immediate concerns and pressing problems.

Email, and more to the point, managing email has become a skill in itself. Those people who manage it successfully combine prioritising their time to “get things done”  with maintaining an effective email relationship with their network.

Have you ever felt perplexed (and probably slightly miffed ) that people who you have a professional relationship with just don’t answer your mails?  What happened to good old fashioned manners?  Ok, perhaps the term “manners” is no longer appealing, let’s replace it in this context with the term “netiquette”. Because at the end of the day we are dealing with PEOPLE. We might have a computer screen seperating us but we  have one person sending the mail and another person receiving it.

How people behave around email says a lot to me. Those people  I have a relationship with and who respond to my mail, even if it’s just an acknowledgement and especially if it’s to say thank you, go up a few points on my integrity scale. As with anything in life, it’s how we behave that paves the way for a positive personal and/or business relationship between two people. Those who don’t observe simple codes of conduct when it comes to responding to email could just be losing out on opportunities.

And what about those people who are too lazy to change the “subject” of the mail. They want to talk about a completely different topic to the previous one so they find the last mail that was exchanged with you and just start writing. You get confused before opening the mail to then find that the mail is endless with all the exchanges that went before. How lazy can you get?

Continuing on a practical note however (enough of the moans and groans), how can we effectively manage our email whilst at the same time reserving time to do the  important, “moving forward” aspects of our jobs?

Here are some tips to manage email:

  1. Allocate specific times of the day to check email and different times to DEAL WITH email
  2. Work on the concept of zero inbox. How do we achieve that?
  3. When you check your emails you need to scan them quickly and immediately put into one of 5 files, do, delete, delegate, archive and defer.
  4. At the time you’ve allocated for actioning mails, go through the files to do, defer and delegate to take the appropriate action.

We waste so much time opening emails, reading them, thinking we’ll see to it later only to come back to it amongst a yet fuller inbox, read it again before deciding what to do with it.

Even the sight of a huge inbox before you even start to tackle anything just drains your energy, so there’s a lot to be said for the zero inbox concept.

If you are looking for more details on how to manage email and in fact, time management itself, I highly recommend the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I’m a bit of time management freak myself and in my opinion Allen’s book is the most practical work I’ve read on the subject.

Check out his web site: http://www.davidco.com

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