Wednesday, April 09, 2008

How to make your email more productive

As I travel around the country I am constantly fascinated by my client’s addiction to their email. Email was a tool originally designed to help boost our productivity in the workplace but unfortunately it has become a productivity killer. Whether you check it on your laptop or your blackberry, email now takes a huge portion of your daily correspondence time. To help boost your productivity and get control of your email try these simple strategies.

Avoid answering email first thing in the morning – the first thirty minutes of each day should be spent reviewing your strategy for the day and planning how you will achieve your goals. While you can scan your email first thing, please don’t respond immediately. Spend more time on strategy than email and you will achieve your bigger goals.

Use Color coding – most email programs allow you to designate colours to individuals. This ensures when you first review your email you can see who the emails are from easily and allows you to direct your attention to the most important people first.

Drag and drop – did you know you can drag an email from your inbox and drop it into your Contacts to create a new contact or drag it into your Tasks to create a new Task. This simple but effective strategy will also help you reduce your inbox clutter.

Unsubscribe – if you are receiving emails to online information you no longer review or read, take the time to unsubscribe. Yes this takes more time initially but will help you to reduce your inbox volume allowing you to read and review only those emails you want to receive.

Use Out of Office – if you are going to be out of the office for more than 6 hours, use this facility to educate those who email you. They will automatically receive an email advising them you are away. ­

Invest in Spam Filters – tighten your email security by investing in spam filters that will reduce the junk mail you receive.

Keep them short – keep your reply and responses short. If your reply is going to take substantial time, book a phone conversation or meeting with someone to answer appropriately.
Write in action language – use proactive, action language in your emails causing your readers to take action.

Use an email signature – set up a rule in your email system to always send your contact information at the footer of your email. This signature could contain your postal address, phone contact numbers and something about you and your business. This assists those you send your emails to and is free promotion for you each email you forward.

Be polite – email still requires a greeting and sign off. Take a few extra moments to greet your reader and sign off too.

Turn on spell checker – don’t allow poor grammar or spelling to be a misrepresentation of you and your skills. Set up your email to automatically spell check before any email is sent.

Turn off noises – remove any bells, whistles or chimes attached to your email. Don’t be distracted each time your email is received. Reduce distraction and eliminate chimes or sounds.

Use names in email – in the body text of an email advise each person why you sent them the email and the action they need to take. Teach people around you to read your emails looking specifically for their names and the actions you need them to take.

Delete – don’t be scared to delete emails. Once you have actioned it, file it or delete it. Keep your inbox clear.

Avoid BCC – try to avoid the use of blind carbon copy. If you have something to say to someone on email ensure that those who are copied need to be copied.

Avoid FYI – make a personal promise not to send any “FYI” or For Your Information emails. Only forward emails with specific instructions to people on what is required of them and why you are sending it through. Sending FYI emails is lazy.

Avoid jokes – don’t send joke emails, chain letters or cute PowerPoint presentations around the office. Don’t waste other’s time with these types of emails, our inboxes are so full already. Be considerate and avoid sending joke emails.

Stop pressing Send/Receive – get your finger off the button! Stop constantly pressing this button to check if you have any incoming emails. Avoid the temptation and spend time actioning the email you already have.

Watch your tone – be aware that the receiver doesn’t have the benefit of hearing your voice when they receive your email. Make sure it can’t be misunderstood.

Size does matter – be aware of the size of the attachments you are forwarding with your email. Be considerate to others and minimize file size when sending.

Spend 15 minutes – spend 15 minutes per day sorting your email. Take this time to file actioned emails, forward emails to others or delete emails. Daily discipline of your email inbox will allow you to remain focussed and less overwhelmed by email.

Maintain personal and work accounts – keep two email addresses. Only allow yourself to check work email during work time and set up a separate account to check your personal emails in your personal time.

Email is a powerful communication tool when used effectively it will help you boost your productivity. Promise yourself you will start looking at your emails differently today, apply these strategies and get back some of the time you are spending on email each day.

Neen James, MBA, is an International Productivity Expert: by looking at how they spend their time and energy – and where they focus their attention – Neen helps people to rocket-charge their productivity and performance. A dynamic speaker, author and corporate trainer, Neen demonstrates how boosting your productivity can help you achieve amazing things. With her unique voice, sense of fun and uncommon common-sense, Neen delivers a powerful lesson in productivity. Subscribe to Neen’s free monthly ezine at

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