Take Control of Your E-mail

I think it’s safe to say that for most business today E-mail is a significant and critical form of communication.  If you have ever worked for an internal IT department when the Exchange server crashed you know this all too well.  The challenge I see more nowadays is how do you get control of your e-mail instead of letting it control you.  Lets face it in todays gadget driven world we can pretty much get e-mail anywhere thanks to iPhones, Blackberry’s, iPads, web mail…….  This is all great but unless you have a way to manage the hundreds of email that come in everyday it really doesn’t do you a lot of good and sometime allows critical items to fall between the cracks.

I started my IT career doing deskside support and have seen all kinds of interesting ways of managing and filing e-mails.  From the I’m going to keep all 10,000 emails from the last 5 years in my Inbox to the I file all my emails in the “Deleted Items” folder…..that guys was a real genius.  Today, 12 years later, my job is even more dependent on e-mail.  Just about everything I do depends on the ability to send and receive messages and more importantly attachments.  Contact with account executives, vendors, manufactures, distributors all runs through e-mail.  So I figured I’d do this quick blog entry today to share a few tips that help me in my ever more complicated battle with e-mail.

1-      Get organized:   Take a look at the line of work your in and organize your e-mail logically.  For me, it’s a client based business.  Everything we do is generally for one of our hundreds of clients or from one of the manufactures we represent so that’s how I organize my email – by client for our clients and 5 or 6 manufacture folders, one for each of the major manufactures we represent.  For our clients I created a “Clients” folder then subfolders for each client.  Then when I get a phone call or email asking about something that happened for XYZ Company over 6 months ago I know right where to go to start searching.

2-      K.I.S.S: Keep It Simple Stupid.  The more complicated your filing system the harder it is going to be to find anything.  If you have 6 levels of directory structure and 2000 subfolder it’s going to get ugly.  Try to limit yourself to 1 level of subdirectories per group.

3-      Use the “Inbox” as a “To Be Completed” folder:  When items come into your inbox only leave them there if there is something that requires your attention.  If you get a dirty joke from your friends, read it, laugh, forward it to the rest of your perverted friends and then delete it or file it under “Perverted Jokes” folder.

4-      Delete older threads: If you work with people who love the Reply to All button then you probably understand this well.  If you receive 30 e-mails due to a reply to all / IM over e-mail converstation – there’s really no reason to keep the first 29 is there?  The delete key is your friend – delete the 29 emails and read and respond to the last one when you have time.  Obvious I know but again I’ve seen some really strange !@#$% over the years.

5-      Use the Search Function: If you use Microsoft Outlook, like most people, use the search function to help you find things.  I know, it seems like a no brainer but some people have no clue how to use it.  Use key words.  If you can’t remember the date of the New Kids on the Block reunion tour – search for “New Kids” or maybe “I need serious help”.  🙂

6-      Set goals for you’re inbox: For me, I try to finish the week with a maximum or about 2 pages of emails (~20) in my inbox.  This gives me a good idea of how far ahead or behind I am and forces me to review things to make sure items aren’t falling off schedule or being forgoten.

I’m not saying this is the end all be all solution for e-mail and that it will solve all of your problems in life but it does work very well for me and has for years.  So get organized and take control of your e-mail, your co-workers will thank you (maybe) and the job you save may be your own.

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One Response to “Take Control of Your E-mail”

  1. Andrew Miller Says:

    Good stuff….I used to use folders a good bit for filing (within reason)…now given really powerful search I just file by date basically — a well-crafted search gets me anything I could get out of a folder-based system at this point (that’s where the fast, powerful search becomes a critical ingredient).

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