Are your emails getting out of hand?by
The Imprudent Accountant examines where communication technology has brought accountants over the last few decades, and how to cope with the inundation of emails.
Older practitioners will remember the frustrations of communicating when it took days to exchange simple messages. A far cry from today’s emails which arrive in a matter of seconds. Patience was the primary solution when nobody answered the phone, or you failed to get through to the right person.
The ultimate fix was often the fax machine – now more of a museum relic. A generation later, the mobile phone became a status symbol, even though it looked like a far from stylish brick.
Today, mobile phones double as computers which could probably plan and implement a space mission without breaking a sweat. These can be supplemented by laptops or tablets, ensuring that even those with Luddite tendencies are able to stay in touch with their clients and staff almost all of the time.
Naturally, this is a double-edged sword. When you want to contact clients in the middle of the night (or their holiday), such gadgets are gifts from the gods. However, when clients return the favour and pester their professional adviser, it can lead to stress, anxiety, and in extreme cases, a potential heart attack.
Most of this has been considered by academics with far bigger brains and more spare time than me. What I can tell you is that there is no magic bullet.
If I turn off my phone to watch the big match or get some sleep, the result always seems to be an irate client. However, some technologically-induced stress is a little more under our control. This includes email management.
In my experience, emails on the work account usually fall into four categories.
- Those that are urgent
- Those that will soon become urgent but aren’t yet
- Those that will need sorting out some time
- Junk mail
The strange thing is that very few people seem to have shared perfect strategies for prioritising and managing an email inbox.
Personally, I am a great believer in little and often. This means clearing the junk and dealing with urgent emails in realtime.
The category two emails will either get answered in a convenient gap or when they become urgent, depending on other pressures.
My weakness is the slow-burners that only become important three months later when they have been long forgotten.
I also accept that there are different strokes for different folks. I have had colleagues who set aside a fixed period each morning to deal with emails. That never struck me as practical. Others sort them out on the train or at home.
There is also a class who ignore their emails until clients start shouting. This tact is problematic and guaranteed to annoy your paymasters, whilst raising the blood pressure to dangerous levels.
The purpose of penning this article was to discover whether there is anything that I can learn from enlightened readers who have a better methodology than any of those addressed. If so, please share the secret of your success with other subscribers.