Are you spending too much time on e-mail? If so, use these tips to turn the tables and make e-mail work for you.
Compose — Respond — Send
1. Keep e-mails concise, clear, and relevant. By following these three guidelines throughout your communications, you’re less likely to waste time on overly verbose messages, or messages that require additional clarification (and composition time) later.
2. Whenever possible, respond to or forward an existing e-mail instead of composing your own from scratch. Leveraging the original sender’s text allows you to reduce the amount of time you must spend summarizing or restating information, without reducing the usefulness of your communications to your recipients.
3. Utilize distribution lists at every opportunity. Organize them by project, functional area, or reporting structure, and you’ll spend less time looking up who should receive each message. It’s also a method that prompts fewer interruptions later when you realize you forgot to include someone, and must now locate the e-mail and forward it to them.
Store — Locate — Retrieve
4. Create project-specific folders in your e-mail program to produce a framework for storing e-mails that allows for quick retrieval later. A logical and consistent structure will make the archival process more efficient, too.
5. Be judicious in what you save—electronic storage space seems unlimited, but documenting multiple projects can quickly occupy an enormous amount of server space. Duplicate information should be consolidated, outdated information should be made current, and extraneous information should be discarded.
6. Take the time now to become familiar with your e-mail program’s search function, so you can quickly and efficiently utilize it later. Narrowly focused searches will be faster and more fruitful; apply as many filters as possible, and target your key terms to return only those messages you’re most likely to need.