Tips for dealing with email – part 1

By popular demand…

I’ve been working with a few people recently and the following are some of the things that have helped them get on top of their mailboxes.  I have permission to say that the worst inbox I’ve helped deal with contained 6,478 items – 5,893 were unread (!).  If this sounds like you, why not try some of these ideas –  let me know if any work for you!

Evaluate before you hit send.  The kind of email you send out affects the kind of email – both quality and quantity – you receive.  Soif you answer “no” to any of the following, then think again before you send:  am I clear about what this email is about and what I want the recipient to do as a result?  is email the best medium for this purpose? do I feel kindly disposed towards the recipient? would there be consequences if someone else read the email?

Meet-o-matic, Doodle, and similar tools are brilliant for arranging meetings with people external to your organisation.  For internal meetings, learn how to use your Outlook (or equivalent) calendar for scheduling at times that all the attendees are free – this cuts down on lots of exchanges about dates and arrangements.

Action should be obvious from your subject line and your email.  Is it for information, or do you want someone to do something as a result of the email? – if so, what do you want them to do and by when?  This is closely linked to understanding the reason for sending the email in the first place (as above!).  If something is genuinely urgent, then it can be helpful to use flags or the red exclamation mark.  Conversely, if something is NOT urgent, a flag or blue downwards arrow shows the recipient that you thought it was worth sending them the mail, but don’t expect them to drop everything to deal with it! – a bit of consideration of others will often come back to you…

Inbox is where you keep things you haven’t dealt with yet: it’s a to-do list.  If you’re storing loads of emails in your inbox and are feeling totally swamped as a result, why not move into separate folders: older emails (more than 1 month at least), read emails, emails sent to you AND to lots of other people, and things you’ve kept for reference.  Your email programme’s search facility will mean you can find them again – if you ever need to 🙂

Listservs are the bane of many people’s lives.  If you feel you really can’t live without a daily fix of jiscmail lists, then why not try a daily digest? – all the messages from one day, sent to you at the end of the day?  Nothing on a listserv is so urgent that you need to read it RIGHT NOW!  Listserv archives are usually available online – so you don’t need to keep your own copy of messages in your mailbox.  Jiscmail offers a lot of useful features, including reading messages on the website where you can hover over the message without even having to open it (see picture) – and instantly decide whether it’s relevant to you or not.  Which leads us on to…

Spend time with your mailbox wisely.  Richard Branson is reputed to check email once a day.  I try and limit it to two half-hours.  Turn off notifications of new mail arriving.  “Doing email” is not always very productive work.


3 thoughts on “Tips for dealing with email – part 1

  1. Pingback: Email tips – part 2 « M Sarah Wickham

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Tips for dealing with email – part 1 « M Sarah Wickham --

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s