Monday, December 24, 2007

7 Ways to Handle Email Efficiently

I was mentioned in the Globe and Mail today. Harvey Schachter writes about E-overload and handling email volume:

"Julie Morgenstern suggested in The Wall Street Journal that people's workloads are so intimidating now that they use e-mail as an escape: "It gives you a false sense of accomplishment."

This is a scary thought.

Jim Estill's 7 ways to Handle Email Efficiently

We all deal with the challenges of email volume. The key is to handle it efficiently.

1 - Have a great filtering system. Many of my emails are automatically filtered to go to a certain subfolder. I subscribe to a number of email publications and newsletters. These automatically go to a folder that I can then read at my leisure.

2 - Use a spam filter. Despite having a good spam filter, I still get spam. Although the volume of spam can seem daunting, it is actually very easy and fast to delete. Unlike real email that can take real time to respond to, spam can be easily deleted in less than 2-3 seconds.

3 - Have a slush file. Some emails, I think I might need to reference at a later date. I simply put these in a Nov07 or Dec07 subfolder. If I do end up referring to it, I move it forward to the current subfolder. If not, I can delete my slush folders after a few months. If I have not looked at it in a few months, it cannot be that important.

4 - Have a To Do folder and a Pending folder. This is where I put the emails that need to be done or the ones waiting on action from others or that just need checking. By having the slush folder and these 2 folders, I end up with a clean inbox.

5 - If I can deal with an email in 2 minutes, I deal with it when it arrives. When I am rushed, this time might compress to 30 seconds or even might become "emergency scanning" in 5 seconds. If I am more relaxed, I might expand the time to 5 minutes. It is easier and faster to just deal with the email than to file it and look at it again.

6 - Send less email. Not positive I agree with this tip although it is true that sending email causes email to be sent to you. The reason I am not positive I agree with this is sending email often is the way to get action and I am very big on action and sense of urgency.

7 - Have a Blackberry. Even if I was not on the RIM board, I would totally advocate this tip. It allows you to use small snips of downtime to keep on top of email. It reduces email stress by allowing it to be dealt with quickly and instantly.

Despite the pressure email puts on us, it is still preferable to the slower alternatives. Imagine trying to handle all your workload on the telephone, fax or by mail. I know we did it once but it was just not as effective and efficient.


At 9:42 AM, Blogger Stuart R. Crawford said...

Hi Jim, great tips, I also use a Blackberry and blogged about the importance of having one the other day.

I also use Flags in Outlook as a way to indentify important messages that I must action and I simply have a folder called "DEAL WITH IT LATER", this allows me to dump the non-important items into.

I am teaching a class in Calgary in January on using Microsoft Outlook to allow you to be more productive, details are at

Merry Christmas Everyone

Stuart Crawford
Calgary, Alberta

At 12:35 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Jim,

I like you tips especially since I am already practising most of the tips. It always feels good to be validated :-)

The Blackberry is great, but it would be even better if it can "Flag" emails for follow-up that is compatible with the same Lotus Notes feature. Also, it would be great if it can with one click copy an email into a Task or Calendar event. I am mentioning these to you because I got brushed off by Jim B when I mentioned them to him a couple of years back. Maybe if you mention these in one of your board meeting, RIM would take more notice :-)

Robert Tong

At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, Jim! I've read your e-blog on managing e-mail, and it's given me ideas on how to control the amount of "stuff" that I get on my laptop each day. Mind you, reading spam on miracle cures and R-rated material is enough to frustrate everybody - and putting a filter on my AOL and Hotmail sites doesn't always help. (That's why I stay away from the 'net half the time - which is not always practical.)

It's also important to note that e-mail could be easily discarded into the recycling bin at the least, used as a corporate weapon at the worst. I knew one woman who was fired from her job through e-mail, and that left me incensed! Whatever happened to a proper exit interview, in a closed office between two people? I guess another blog on corporate etiquette is necessary.

See you around the track!


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