When used correctly, email is one of the most efﬁcient, effective and reliable forms of communication.
Unfortunately, too few use it optimally. Whether treating it like instant-messaging software or as an alternative to a phone call, inboxes are becoming increasingly clogged with correspondence best suited to other modes of delivery.
Not only does this mean spending more time dealing with those unnecessary messages, it also means you’re being distracted from more important emails. But if you’re one of the many people who can’t resist attending to it every time your computer tells you you’ve got mail, there’s also the time it takes to get back on track with whatever it was you were already working on, which was probably more important than what you were distracted by.
In AIM Melbourne’s Effective Email Management course, email strategist Steuart Snooks stresses the importance of resisting the urge to check your inbox every time something comes through.
Most times, emails aren’t as urgent as we think they are and, if they are important, email probably isn’t the best method of communication anyway.
Instead, plan the day and set aside a specific time or times to deal with emails. Turn off the alerts if they prove too great a temptation.
Ever-advancing technology also plays a part. With so many mighty gadgets at hand, a lot of us never really “clock off”. Even long after we leave the office, our smartphones, tablets and various devices are demanding attention. Dealing – or, perhaps as importantly, not dealing – with these is a lifestyle choice as much as a work one.
Is the stress of being switched on 24/7 really necessary? But it’s one thing to improve your own attitude towards electronic mail; it’s another to get your clients and colleagues to do so. Snooks has a solution for that, too: train them.
Make colleagues and clients aware you will only be reading and responding to emails at certain times of the day and if it’s urgent they should pick up the phone or speak to you face-to-face.
The short course has some tips on using email software – most people receive no training in it, despite its importance and the amount of time spent using it – but the strength of the course is the set of principles it enforces.
Like anything, it will take time and effort to break old habits: most of the real work will be done after the course, but AIM has the tools to make the change.
Tips from the 4D Methodology:
1. Ditch or delete
No action needed? Don’t need to keep the message? Delete it and move on.
2. Deal with it now
If you can deal with the email within two minutes, it’s best to do it now. Putting it off will only cost more time later.
Pass the message onto the appropriate person.
If the email needs further action, you can do one of three things: Where – decide where to file it; When – if it can’t be done in two minutes, schedule the time to deal with it; and Wait – if no further action can be taken now, add to a “pending reply” folder. Set a reminder if necessary.
This article appeared in the July 2014 edition of Management Today, AIM’s national monthly magazine.