The e-mail challenge – Who is going to join me?

Heather Townsend
The Excedia Group
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Are you finding in busy season that your e-mail has got on top of you? What’s your inbox like... bursting at the seams?
I wonder if you are like me and have found that you struggle to keep your e-mail manageable and under control. When my inbox gets swamped with e-mail, I know that I am leaving (and losing) e-mails which really need to be replied to. Yes, I really can’t see the woods for the trees. Not good, and potentially damaging for my credibility and relationships with clients and potential clients. No practice, however large or small, can afford to lose business because of poor e-mail discipline.
The problem is that I get too much e-mail every day. Often 100-200 e-mails a day. This is impossible to process daily AND run a business... I had a huge swathe of rules set up to manage my e-mail, until my laptop was completely wiped by PC World and I had to start all over again. I’ve started rebuilding all the rules in outlook again... which is helping, but I didn’t rebuild them quick enough. This meant that as soon as I got busy, such as being ill for about a month in November and December, my e-mail discipline went and the number of my e-mails mounted up and up and up.
It took me about 2 hours to clear down over 1000 e-mails this week. And, there were no surprises in the e-mail mountain. Two-thirds of the e-mails were non-urgent, unwanted or unnecessary e-mails. Mostly newsletters – and often ones where I had not given my permission to be added to the mailing list. (But that is the subject of another blog)
Dealing with an inbox which has under a page of e-mails is manageable. My personal goal is to finish the day with zero e-mails in my inbox. To do this, I will use the following simple rules and stick to them

   1. Turn off Outlook, except for 30 mins at lunch time every day when I will process all my e-mails, and reduce my inbox to zero
   2. When I am processing my e-mail I will aim to:
      Do it, if it is a quick task
      Delete it
      Delegate it
      OR add to the 'action' folder, and schedule in a task to process the e-mail
   3. Schedule in a weekly reading session (of no more than an hour) to read through all my e-mails in the ‘to read’ folder. Once they have been read, then they will be deleted or filed, if full of useful information
   4. Ruthlessly, and I mean ruthlessly, unsubscribe to any newsletter which is not adding value, and any newsletter which I am subscribed to, automatically file into my ‘to read’ folder. Oh, and if I haven’t given permission to be marketed to, I will report the e-mail as spam.

I will aim to eliminate my following bad habits:

   1. Always have Outlook open
   2. Check my e-mail when I get bored (particularly in the evening on my iPad)
   3. Reading an e-mail and then doing nothing with it

 What simple rules will help you keep your e-mail under control?
 Are you up for the zero inbox challenge?




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03rd Jan 2011 15:30

The email challange - overcoming email overload to improve produ


This is a subject dear to my heart as I believe that email overload is the bigest potential threat to personal, professional and business productivity as outlinned in my own blog and recent column on  Other ways to reduce the email overload inlcude, being ruthless about what emails enter your inbox by learning to say 'no' and using folders effectively.

Good luck with the email challenge,  Monica Seeley


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06th Jan 2011 10:20

The email challenge - count me in.


I too have decided to really work on my email practice this year, having read a useful book over the break, Mark Hurst's Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload. Some really useful things in there, even allowing for the fact that it is really a plug of his to list tool. I open my email three times a day, 10:00  in case anything urgent has come in first thing, lunchtime as you do and around 16:00 to check/deal with any thing. Each email is "touched" once, as you say, action, delete, delegate or add to to do list. I also use rules,  categories and folders to help me manage the things I know can be dealt with (semi-)automatically. So far, so good, BUT it is only the second day back in the office for me. However, as with all challenges, it is always good to have company, so count me in!


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