Surveys repeatedly name “too much e-mail” and “too little time” as two of the biggest stumbling blocks to accomplishing your work and enjoying your life. The two go hand-in-hand, for sure, but the question is whether you are the victim or the culprit! In my experience, the answer is usually “Both!” One of my favorite definitions of “organization” is “controlling the things you can control, so you can cope with the things you can’t.” While you do have limited control over the e-mail you receive, you have total control over how you mange it. Consider these possibilities:
When Sending E-Mail:
Use the e-mail subject line to clearly describe the purpose of your e-mail. For example, “Proposed Itinerary for Chicago 12/15/10 – CONFIRM by 6/18/10.”
Include only one subject per email message. This eliminates the possibility of the receiver reacting to the first issue, and missing the second, and it makes filing and retrieval much simpler.
If your e-mail requires action quickly, put URGENT or DECISION in the subject line, or use the “urgent” notation provided by your e-mail program. (Caution: Don’t overuse, or you will be like boy in the old fable who cried “wolf” too many times!)
When replying to e-mail, attach enough of the old message for the recipient to remember the content of the original e-mail, but delete unnecessary information or duplication.
If you are composing a lengthy or complicated e-mail, create the e-mail in your word processing program and then copy to your e-mail. If you have an e-mail glitch during the sending process, you can easily retrieve your message!
Avoid sending e-mail attachments whenever possible. Receivers are becoming more reluctant to open attachments due to the increasing prevalence of viruses that can come through attachments. (One precaution is to send an e-mail alerting the receiver that you are sending a file in a subsequent e-mail.)
Avoid communicating other people’s e-mail addresses without their permission, e.g.:
When sending an e-mail to multiple addresses, put your e-mail in the “To” line and the recipients in the “BCC” line.
When forwarding an e-mail, delete the addresses automatically included in the body of the forwarded e-mail.