1. Label your e-mail
Use smart labelling for all your e-mails. At the start of the subject- line, being with
a. <info> for information
b. <action> if the recipient is expected to take an action
c. <comment> If you want them to provide their views or feedback
This only works if you can get all your colleagues and customers to adopt the same labelling protocol. This enables you to focus on the action> e-mails first – especially the one from key customers and your boss !
2. Label – Don’t Copy !
Ask yourself. Is there any real value in all those e-mails that you have received as a “cc” copied recipient? Most of the time, people do not give proper consideration to their inclusion of several “copied people” on a single message. Some “direct reports” do this as a matter of course to show-off or to inform their boss. This is lazy. They should keep you up-to-date on the key issues and not on every piece of correspondence.
Cut down on your copying and ask others to do the same.
3. Hit the Mute Button
Mute your speaker. Avoid the temptation of flicking from your current task to read the latest e-mail – just because your heard the familiar mail delivery chime !
If you’re “on-line” – make sure that your Blackberry is not sitting on your desk and vibrating each time you receive an e-mail. If you don’t want to alter the settings, just lob the berry in your briefcase.
4. Manage Expectations
Make good use of your auto out-of-office message. Mange people’s expectations. If you are going to struggle to deal with e-mail for a day or a week due to travel of heavy meeting commitments – warn “senders” that you won’t be able to respond as quickly as usual. Provide an alternative contact number (a colleagues or PA) OR provide your mobile number and request that they send you an SMS for urgent matters only.
5. Switch Off
Quit your Outlook or Mail application for a couple of hours per day. Set aside a quality or golden period of two of hours when you can focus on your key tasks. If you were in a meeting, you would not be able to respond to your e-mail. So, why not give yourself the same break from e-mail when you’re focussing on key task?
6. FART on your e-mail
•This is a mindset. Don’t let e-mail rule your life. Deal with it. Dismiss it. Your body deals with excess gas, you must deal with excess communication!
•File. Take the time to create a logical filing system
•Action. If you need to take action – do it immediately – or, schedule a slot in your calendar to action it.
•Reply. If the sender requires a reply, don’t leave the e-mail and come back to it later. Take a moment to compose your answer. Do it now! You have already devoted time to read the e-mail; you’ll waste time if you have to return to it later and re-read it before typing your reply. Think of Magnus Magnusson’s catchphrase from the 1970’s quiz, Mastermind, “ I’ve started so I’ll finish . . .”
•Trash. Need I say more ?
7. Carpe Diem. Clear the In Box.
• Carpe Diem – Seize the Day. Take e-mail by the scruff of the neck and shake it out. If the FART mindset did not work for you, perhaps this will.
• It may take you 2 to 3 days to empty your InBox, but master this, then make a vow to clear it at the end of each day (diem) for a full week.
• Try it. See how you feel. This one tip will make you feel on top of the world.
Do this for 30 days and it will become a habit. Why wait for the New Year to form a resolution?
8. Master your Blackberry.
• Despite the “crackberry” nickname, these devises are fantastic if you impose discipline.
• Don’t use it during evening and weekends
• Use it during dead time. It’s great for taxi rides, train journeys or airports. Everyone’s routine is different. What is your dead time?
Don’t use your blackberry during meetings. Some organisations insist that executives “surrender” their blackberries as they enter the meeting room. This is extreme, but it tells you the extent of the problem.
9. E-mail Contract
• Agree a protocol with colleagues. For example, you will agree with peers and line manager that you’ll respond between 8:00am and 6:00pm and not at weekends.
• This can “excuse” you from dipping in to see if there’s a message during these hours
Agree that urgent matters outside these “no fly zones”, should come as a Txt message alerting you to an e-mail if there’s a more complex and urgent matter. This contract is not to be abused!
10. The 15 Word Burst
• For quick messages, condense them into 15 words in the e-mail subject line. Don’t type anything in the message body.
By dropping a one liner with your question, this will save you time and encourage the recipient to be brief with their answer.