By Joe Cirillo
Is an overabundance of e-mail stealing precious moments of your time? If it is, it's time to take some of those moments back so you can start enjoying life instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the e-mails you need to sift through.
E-mail is a powerful communication tool, but it's also powerfully taking up a lot of our time. Many of us spend almost a quarter or more of our workday sifting through and responding to e-mails. E-mails can be frustrating if they're not handled property. Every time you open your e-mail and see a series of unanswered messages in your inbox it represents unfinished work, demands on your time, and more deadlines than you probably ever thought you'd have. But there's a way you can manage e-mail better and reclaim your time for more productive things.
Outlook is the most common program for e-mail these days, unfortunately most of us only use 20 percent of the features it comes with. The rules and filters feature for example can be a very powerful tool. If you receive e-mails from the same people on a regular basis, have them sift into their own folder so they stay out of your inbox. Then you can set a trigger through your rules wizard to notify you with a pop up message whenever an e-mail from that person pops into his or her folder. That way you keep your inbox clear and uncluttered.
Unsubscribe from as many distribution lists as you can, but if you need to stay on them, use another e-mail program (like Hotmail) to register for these. Discussion groups and distribution lists can really clog e-mail and do a number on your sense of organization if they're allowed to get out of control. Instead, assign a specific e-mail account to these lists or get rid of them altogether.
Make sure people know they don't need to respond to every message you're sending by using language such as "No reply needed."
If you're addressing several issues in an e-mail, consider dividing them up into e-mails addressing each issue separately when you can. You might think this is counter productive to reducing e-mail, but it's been proven that people generally respond to only the first and last thing they read in an e-mail. This means that if there are other items that have been overlooked you'll need to pester the e-mail recipient for an answer. More e-mails, more frustration and well, you get the general idea.
So let's say you get a variety of e-mails on a regular basis that all require the same response, there's a great feature in Outlook that will allow you to respond to these in record time. It involves using Outlook signatures. Customize signatures for every "form e-mail you send, then when a message comes in such as getting directions or product information, you can select a signature template and send the message off. There's also an auto-responder feature in Outlook few people are aware of. This allows you to set up an automated response without even having to touch the e-mail message. This will require that the e-mail have some sort of "trigger whether it's coming to a specific e-mail address or if it has a specific working in the subject line. If it has an identifier then Outlook can be programmed to respond with an automated message.
Remember that if you're going to get organized, have more time for yourself, your family and your work, then you're going to have to get serious about organizing your e-mail. Your inbox should be for temporary storage only, this is not a place to keep your to-do-list, follow-up-file, or calendar. If possible, keep your inbox to one screen only. The lighter the inbox, the less your load will seem and the less overwhelmed you'll be. Also, keep in mind that the average time spent on a single e-mail message is four minutes, by implementing the steps listed in this article you can limit the minutes you spend sifting through and responding to e-mails and gain that extra two hours you have been looking for.
About The Author
It's Your Time is available in bookstores across the nation or on Cirillo's Web site: http://www.joecirillo.com. Cirillo has a long list a happy customers that say his methods will help you organize everything and gain up to two hours a day. Joe Cirillo lives in Sun Valley, Idaho where he is currently releasing his second book The Italian Club, Original family recipes brought over from Naples, Italy. Contact The Cirillo Company today to be placed on the advanced copy list.