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how to manage e-mail

Peter Kenworthy is a management and HR consultant

Peter Kenworthy's organisation

Can e-mail be more gain than pain?  With stress levels rising as the Inbox fills up, what can you do personally and in your organisation?

1.  Decide when to check e-mails

Check e-mails periodically rather than continually.  Turn off ‘new e-mail’ alerts and decide when to check for new mail.  For some people once or twice a day will be sufficient; others may need to check every two hours.  The stress and inefficiency of responding to every new e-mail as it arrives should be obvious – batch opening is more efficient and less stressful.

2.  Delete – deal – delay

E-mails are best managed by the 3D rule:

Delete anything irrelevant, out-of-date, redundant or simply rubbish

Deal with e-mails if you can do so in less than 2 minutes or delegate by forwarding to the right person

Delay in reaction or reply if it will take time, thought or research – set up a #Pending folder which can be opened later (the # sign puts it at the top of the folders list)

3.  Use abbreviations in the Subject line

It helps everyone if they know immediately if an e-mail is for information (FYI), for action (FYA), a response to something previous (RES) or just a quick message (QM) written in the subject line.

4.  Use Attachments sparingly

Use hyperlinks to documents if they are on the shared network drive, rather than attach.  It ensures each recipient accesses the same version of the document.  If it’s not on the network, large documents should be zipped up (compressed) and small documents may be better pasted into the body of the e-mail itself.

5.  Create a weekly e-bulletin

So many inboxes get cluttered with the circular e-mails sent to everyone.  A weekly e-bulletin which collates as much as possible is not as big a task as it may seem.  Or use the intranet.

6.  Use Message options

Learn about options available when sending messages, especially time-expiry so that it never reaches people’s Inbox if it’s irrelevant after a certain time e.g. warning of Fire Alarm Test this morning or the meeting is starting at 10.30.

7.  Get training in good e-mail practice

It is easy to assume that everyone knows how to use e-mail.  It may not even be checked as part of induction.  People need to know how to set up new folders so they can organise their e-mails systematically and how to integrate Mail with Calendar and Tasks.  Bring in external trainers to run workshops if necessary or use on-line courses.

In summary:

• Resist checking e-mails continually

• Respond with the 3D rule – delete, deal or delay

• Use Subject line abbreviations, hyperlinks and message options

• Get e-mail training

Peter Kenworthy is the Director of 3D HR - Three Dimensional Human Resources.

Contact details for Peter Kenworthy (article author)

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