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Technology / Managing email

Email management: The seven deadly sins

Speed of communication is king and sitting firmly in the court of this new kingdom is email – the information revolution that has made it simpler and faster for businesses to communicate…most of the time.

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The following tips will help you with email management.

Here are some facts about email management today.

  • The average business user spends more than two hours a day dealing with email.
  • 331 billion emails are sent and received worldwide every day.
  • The average worker receives 48 to 75 emails per day, with many workers now receiving 200 to 300.
  • 70% of senior managers find the daily torrent of email stressful.
  • The average annual cost of paying a senior manager to read and write email is $25,000

Clearly we need to find ways to cut our email traffic and ensure our email management is more efficient. The following will help control the daily deluge and avoid becoming inboxicated!

Sin 1: 24/7 email addiction

Bing! “You have mail.” That message alert must be the greatest killer of productivity and concentration. Get rid of it and focus on the task in hand, especially when it requires thought and innovation. Check your emails at specific times to enhance productivity and output. For example, at the start of your day, just before lunch and at the end of the day.

Sin 2: Email tennis

We’ve all had email conversations that go on like a Lleyton Hewitt fifth set tie breaker. Break the email tennis habit with the two email rule: If you’re still not sure what to do after two emails, revert to that old fashioned way of communicating – pick up the phone or even better, see them face to face.

"The average business user spends more than two hours a day dealing with email. "

Sin 3: Email emu

Don’t use email as a medium to shy away from face-to-face confrontation. Email is best suited for simple communications such as scheduling meetings and circulating minutes or updates. It isn’t a substitute for in-person or phone contact.

Want more articles like this? Check out the managing email section.

Sin 4: The email thesis

Get to the point. Some people already receive hundreds of emails a day so keep it brief. Email tends to be more like conversational speech, so it’s unnecessary to spend hours composing a message with the formality and rigidity (and length) of a thesis. Better still, use bullet points to illustrate main topics.

Sin 5: BCC (Butt Covering Colleague)

Needlessly long distribution lists are a major cause of email logjams. It may seem like a great idea to circulate a document for input, but it can spark off an email frenzy that you will find hard to cope with. There’s nothing like receiving ten messages from ten recipients with ten conflicting views. Aaaaaaahhhhh!

Sin 6: Quick-draw McGraw

We’ve all seen this deadly sin in action – when something better left unsaid is written and sent in haste. The consequence is at best embarrassing, at worst it could jeopardise your relationship with your client or colleagues. As a simple rule, if you are going to send an emotional or angry email, write it, store it and re-evaluate it a few hours later.

Sin 7: Junk email

A Nigerian farmer needs your help to move his millions; a chain letter promises luck and fortune if you forward it to fifty friends… Get rid of spam and junk – use your filters, regularly clean out your inbox and archive old email. To improve email management, be ruthless and only keep what you really need.

There’s no doubt that email can be the scourge of productivity and an added source of stress or even embarrassment. But by following these few simple email management guides and applying a little self-discipline, email can deliver on its promise of providing fast and efficient communication.

That’s it for now, I’ve got to go and check my email!

Reference sources: University of South Australia Technology Services; Steven Robbins; Leadership, Robert Ashton, Accountancy Age, September 2005; Decisionworks; How Elvis got Back in the Building, Julia Baird, 2004; Radicatti, Christine Cavanagh, University of Western Ontario; Study by the Australian Psychological Society with emphasis on the UK’s big four financial firms.

Andrew May

is the CEO of The Performance Clinic and is recognised as a leading performance and productivity expert.

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