July 12, 2012
Is there anything better than email? Is there anything worse than email? The answer in both cases is yes.
You may not understand this dichotomy because you are one of the fortunate people who only get positive, life-affirming email. You are also one of the fortunate people who have no idea what a dichotomy is, but we’ll deal with that in a second article I’m planning on splitting off from this one.
For the rest of us, getting buried with mountains of email is one of the biggest problems of our working lives. The only problem that could be worse is not getting buried with mountains of email because this means you are so far out of the loop that even a bunch of stray electrons cannot find you.
Of course, most of the email most of us receive does not contain information that can be considered vital—bra-bonanza.com, I’m talking about you. Still, other emails are very important, such as the avalanche of emails I personally receive from lonely supermodels in the Balkans who want a relationship with a loving, sensitive man who will appreciate the artistry of the photos they posted on the internet.
Whether your emails are good, bad or indifferent, you need a strategy to manage your electronic correspondence. This is where Preston Ni, author of Communication Success with Four Personality Types can help with your inbox. In a recent article on PsychologyToday.com, Ni offered “Seven Tips to Successful Email Management.” Here is my top five of his top seven:
1. Establish a regular block of time each day to answer emails.
Ni believes “the amount of time spent on emails should not exceed, at the very most, 25% of your workday.” It’s a good idea but not very practical. After all, it’s very unlikely you’re going to cut back on the time you spend gossiping, complaining and exchanging messages for the 15,000th time about a project that isn’t any closer to getting off the ground. As a compromise, a better suggestion would be to block off a regular time to answer emails.
2. Prioritize your emails and answer only the most important.
Here’s a tip that can work. Ni recommends a system in which you divide your emails into a few different categories:
- Must answer.
- Should answer.
- Could answer.
3. Let your colleagues know you only answer emails during a certain time of day.
The idea here is to discipline co-workers who, as Ni says, “show a disregard of your time.” If your colleagues respond to this assertion of your importance with uncontrollable bursts of laughter, you can explain why you are ignoring their emails with Ni’s quotable quote: “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”
4. Save and review your most important messages before clicking send.
This is a fine rule if you’re, as some people say in business circles, a big chicken. True, “messages that contain multiple spelling, grammar and other writing mistakes can create the perception that the author is careless, impulsive or simply a poor writer.” A better idea is to be careful, cautious and a good writer in the first place.
5. Consider a branding statement as part of your email.
Ni’s suggestion is to add to your signature a “short statement, which represents your vision and values.” I know you don’t have any values, but if your vision includes an end to spending endless hours answering emails, how about this for a branding statement: “Don’t say in 10 words what you could say in four.”
If none of these tips work, you’re on your own. Right now, there’s an email I simply must answer. You know how impatient those Balkan supermodels can be.
Quality News Today is an ASQ member benefit offering quality related news
from around the world every business day.