It’s inevitably one of the first things most, if not all, business people do when they report to work. It’s not uncommon to be holding a steaming cup of coffee with an eye gued to the monitor to pick up emails. Between emails and phone calls, picking up and responding to messages could take up over 50% of your regular business hours, leaving you a fraction of the day to do your job. No one wants to spend too much time on emails; but it’s too important to ignore. How do you not miss out on important things emailed to you while not letting it command most of your time?
Here are some time-efficient tips to manage your email messages:
1. Prioritize when picking up messages. You don’t need to read emails chronologically. The subject line, along with the sender’s name, helps you decide which messages are more urgent or more important. Pick up those you think need your attention more.
2. Group emails immediately when reading them for the first time. Either you file them in folders like Yahoo Mail allows you to or label them like GMail users do. Grouping is important for easy tracking. More often than not, you will be reading messges more than once. As new messages come in and older ones get buried deep in your inbox, it will be harder to find them later. Group labels and the search box makes looking for old emails a whole lot easier for you, especially if many of your contacts tend to use vague or general terms for subject lines.
3. Take notes while reading emails. Write down important pieces of information you glean off of each email message you read. This saves you a lot of time when you need these for other correspondences or for general and specific references to other things you need to write about sooner or later.
4. Keep the original messages below your replies. This saves you from having to explicitly say or explain which message you are specifically responding to. For example, when your boss emails you an instruction to fax a contract to a supplier and to let him know when you’ve done it, you can simply say, “Done.” in your reply mail if it contains the original message below. Otherwise, you might have to write something like, “Contract sent to XYZ company.”
There are many other little ways to get organized and manage emails effectively. Email efficiency is usually a factor of total time management and organization skills. Your goal is to have email help you do your job best, not to have it bug you down. Look at it as an information tool that helps you carry out other functions.