Managing e-mail overload to maintain productivity - that's a challenge faced by many small business owners.
(article continues below)
Technology is supposed to make life easier, right? But for many small business owners, technology - specifically e-mail - has made life a lot more difficult. Unlike conventional letters and memos, e-mails can be quickly and easily dispatched for the most trivial reasons. The result? E-mail boxes filled to overflowing with messages demanding a response.
Responding to e-mail takes time and saps productivity away from other more important jobs. But you can manage e-mail and minimize its effect on your time and productivity.
Schedule time for e-mail
Everything else has to be penciled into your calendar, so why not e-mail, too? By scheduling an hour a day to review and respond to e-mails, you can insulate e-mails from taking over your work life. If you only have an hour, it will also help you prioritize which e-mails need to be answered - and which ones don't.
Model relevant e-mailing
As the owner of the company, productive e-mailing begins with you. Make sure every e-mail you send is important, and is worthy of your employees' time and attention. Your effort to model relevant e-mailing to your staff will make it easier for you to require them to live up to the same standard when they send e-mails to you.
When it comes to e-mails, brevity is always best. No one has time to read lengthy, drawn out e-mail messages. If what you have to say is going to take more than a paragraph or two, than an e-mail is probably not the most appropriate venue for saying it. Try sending it in a letter or in person instead.
We all know that e-mails are delivered almost instantaneously. But does that mean that your response needs to be instantaneous as well? No way! In fact, by responding instantly to e-mails you are only making the problem worse. Unless the e-mail requires an instant response, a much better approach is to delay sending a response for a day or two. This buys you some time and de-emphasizes the sense of immediacy most people tend to associate with e-mails.
Forwarding is a major contributor to e-mail problems in the workplace. Some forwards are simply nonsense e-mails - plain and simple. But even genuinely relevant forwarded e-mails can create problems because they require you to scroll through pages of e-mails to find out what was said in the original e-mail. If you use forwarded e-mailing, try to encapsulate all the information they recipient needs in the most recent section of the e-mail to avoid e-mail fatigue.
Ignore useless e-mails
No matter how hard you try to avoid them, you are still going to receive useless and trivial e-mails in your inbox. The only way to deal with them is to not answer them. Your response only encourages the sender to continue sending irrelevant messages. Your silence, however, might give them the clue that you do not appreciate reading unnecessary material.