Last week I was out of my office for two days. When I came back, my email “in basket” had grown to 246 new emails. Yes, you read correctly.
I find it so unproductive to go through that many emails. Too many of them are what I classify as junk or unnecessary.
You know what I mean:
- You were copied on a previous email, and someone decided to “reply all” instead of “reply.” I try NEVER to reply all.
- Someone replies to your email with an “OK” or “Thanks.” Really, was it necessary to send an email on that?
- You somehow got added to a mailing list because you gave your email to a store at which you shopped (either in person or online). I think you should be able to give your email AND be able to opt out of any email newsletter lists. I no longer give my email when I shop.
- You were BCC’d on an email in your company. Well, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. In my mind, BCC really stands for CYA (Cover your *ss). Why don’t they just call it that?
BCC probably frustrates me more than anything. There is nothing I can do about it, because I am not supposed to know it even existed. Instead of BCCing someone, I recommend that after you send your original email, then just forward a copy of the email to that person and indicate it is an “FYI.” That way, they can at least respond.
When I come into my office each day, I do not make answering emails a priority. Here is my strategy for NOT making email an obstacle to getting actual work done. You may find this helpful:
- When I turn on my computer, the first thing I do is glance through those emails that arrived since I left work the previous day. Since many of the junk emails come at night, I delete most of them right away.
- I do NOT answer all my emails right away. I decide which ones are truly urgent and answer those first. (I define a message as TRULY URGENT when the sender cannot proceed with their daily tasks without an answer from me.) Sometimes, if the sender is located in my office, I will just walk over to their desk and answer them. Personal interaction is a very important part of company culture.
- I ignore the rest of my emails until I am taking a break, having lunch, or it is my time of day to go through emails.
- My priority each day is working on my TO DO list. Every day I start with the top three projects I need to complete that day. When I finish one of them, I take a break to send or answer emails. That break is only 10 minutes max.
- When I am going through my emails, I sort by sender, so I avoid having to read the back and forth emails caused by those “reply” and “reply alls.” I can read one and delete all the previous versions. I read the emails by the priority of the person who sent them to me.
- Email newsletter lists: These are my lowest priority. Somehow I got subscribed to at least a dozen email newsletters. Over time, I have found that most of my trade e-letters are rehashing the same stories. So, I glance at the headlines of the ones which have the easiest format to read and (honestly) I delete the rest.
- When the option is given (like at the bottom of many e-newsletters), I “opt out” immediately. It takes about 5 seconds and I am never bothered by their emails again.
Well, my break is over now, so I need to go back to my TO DO list!