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15 Ways to Manage Your E-Mail More Effectively

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? Are you tired of searching for e-mail messages you know are somewhere?
? Is your electronic "In Box" full of outdated messages?
? Do you frequently get ultimatums from your IS department to "clean up your act?"

Love it or hate it ? or both! ? e-mail is increasingly the primary method for communicating in today's digital world ? at work and at home. Research shows that introducing e-mail into a company increases printing by 40%.

In seminars, I often ask attendees, "How many of you print out your e-mail?" The vast majority raise their hand ? timidly! But let's face it, sometimes paper is highly practical. Complex proposals, for example, often require discussions where you need a printed copy that result in physical notes, making the electronic e-mail less valuable than the printed out version.

On the other hand, printing out everything is not likely a good solution. The key to managing e-mail is determining when to keep hard copy and when to keep electronic copy, keeping in mind that sometimes both may be practical. In the case described above, for example, the printed version has value for discussion, and the electronic version has value for creating new versions after the discussion. In either event, the principles of The Paper Tiger methodology will improve communication and increase productivity.

6 Tips for Sending E-mail Your Recipients Will Love:

1. Use the Subject line to clearly describe the topic of your e-mail. This is helpful for the recipient, and for you if you want to find a message you've sent.

2. Include only one subject per e-mail message. This method will greatly simplify e-mail filing and retrieval.

3. For 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!

4. When replying to any 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.

5. 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. In some instances, you may send an attachment, and include the attachment in the body of the e-mail, with the explanation that the attachment will have better formatting, but the recipient could get the gist of the message without opening the attachment.

6. Consider using your contact management software (such as ACT!) to send all of your outgoing e-mail. With many programs, you can attach your outgoing e-mail messages to the recipients, and other related contacts, and they will automatically appear in the Out Box of your e-mail program.

9 Tips for Managing Your Incoming E-mail:

1. To avoid an overflowing e-mail In Box, create folders. For example, you might have folders for each of your direct reports, for each project, for a committee which you chair, and for subjects of particular interest. (For example, I have a folder "statistics" since I frequently need that info for the media.)

2. Whenever you open your incoming e-mail, apply The FAT System? (File-Act-Toss) to each e-mail.

3. If you aren't sure you need it, toss it! Unlike a paper wastebasket, you can always retrieve e-mail from electronic trash by using the "Find Message" feature available in most e-mail programs. (If the company empties the trash without your knowledge, create a folder called "My Trash.")

4. Apply the "2-Do Rule" whenever possible. If you can reply in 2 minutes, then do it right away. It will take longer to file it and retrieve it again than to "just do it!"

5. For e-mail that takes more time to reply, either leave them in Inbox or file in an appropriate folder such as "Action"or "Reply."

6. If you use Paper Tiger Permanent Action Files for managing your paper (Call, Discuss, On-Line, etc.), you can use it to file the paper copy of e-mail that requires your action, such as "Discuss with John."

7. For e-mail you want to keep in electronic format, drag to the appropriate folder as described in Tip #1.

8. If you need or want a paper copy of an e-mail for future reference, print it out and file it in your paper management system, i.e. Paper Tiger, so you can find it again in 5 seconds or less!

9. After you have finished with an e-mail folder (such as a specific project), you can store it on a floppy or ZIP disk in case you need it later.

Do you have some "tricks of the trade" I didn't describe, or have questions about the ones I suggested, feel free to e-mail me - I love to hear from you.

? Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at

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