Email often takes a big bite out of my day in terms of time & money. Sometimes the email box delivers constructive, important or profitable online activities. It's also great to get chatty notes from friends and family. (Please keep writing!) But too often, I just spin my wheels in cyberspace with business or notes that should be handled later.
Fortunately, I've tapped into a few tricks that help me avoid costly electronic detours. Here are the tips:
1. Email-Free Zone. In Making Work Work by Julie Morgenstern, the author recommends steering clear of email during the first 60 minutes of each day. That strategy works quite well for me. I try to begin my day with a high-priority chore and then check into the email box after I've taken care of that business. In that way, I avoid getting pulled into interesting, but low-priority email tasks.
"Email is the biggest time-suck of the modern workday."-- Julie Morgenstern "Email can save or steal time, depending on how you manage it."
2. Use the clock & create a schedule. Create a schedule for checking your email, recommends Quick & Simple in the May 1 issue. On a manic day, I check email several times an hour. That electronic addiction is expensive in terms of lost productivity.
In Quick & Simple, productivity guru Marsha Egan recommends checking the email box about four times or less each day.
Four box checks is not enought for me because I am a home-based freelance writer, but limiting my checks to once an hour might work.
3. Two-minute rule: Quickly review your email. Handle the high-priority business, but everything else must fit into 120-second time slots. If an email can be dealt with in two minutes or less, write back. But if the chore demands more time, put it in your do-later-action file. Of course, this rule does not apply to high-priority items.
4. Banish mail notifications: Ditch the "You've Got Mail" chime. That automatic notice will derail your day.
5. Maintain multiple accounts: Have a personal account for high-priority chats with friends, relatives and business associates. Set up a spam account for low-priority online business, like newsletters, promotional campaigns and other items.
6. Use the subject line: Some informal requests and statements can be easily typed into the subject line. This economy of words will encourage others to do the same, says Julie Morgenstern.
7. Create templates for routine chores: This sounds cold, but a pre-fab template can help you answer mail quickly. This strat works best if you customize each note for the situation.
For example, I receive a lot of email pitches from PR people, who are strangers. I save time by sending back a generic "thanks-for-the tip; I'll contact you later if I am interested."
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