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Managing E-mail Effectively

Posted On: 2007-01-19Length:

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I have this love-hate relationship with email. On the one hand I've never felt so connected to the rest of the world, and I'm in awe of that. On the other hand, it can be overwhelming when you find that in some instances, 99% of your email is unwanted crapola. Our guest for this segment is Michael Song, a leading expert in email efficiency and etiquette. He's co-author of the "Hamster Revolution. How to manage your email before it manages you." Well hi, there Michael. You say that email overload is epidemic in the US workplace. What is the problem exactly, and why should business owners care?

I think that the big problem is the amount of time it's consuming for people. Like you said, a lot of it is garbage, and we've got to do a better job of filtering out those distractions, because business owners have to focus so much on the exact thing that's going to bring them growth and prosperity in the coming year. And email can be absolutely a complete waste of time a lot of the time. So I think that is one, you know, major reason. We've also found that in the companies that we've worked with, that it's now consuming about 40% of the day. Well, email and related activities like filing and finding information fast. The 8,000 people we've surveyed Lee have told us that a third of that time is wasted, and that's more than a month out of the year, and there's really no entrepreneur that I know that can waste that amount of time and still keep moving forward.

And you know, we love email, so we all love it and adore it. What's not, you know, it's made my life much easier. Things are instantaneous, so we have this love-hate relationship with it. You recommend four simple high-impact strategies for managing email. What are they and why do they work?

Well, the first strategy that we recommend is to send less so that you get less email. To really focus in on what you're pushing out to people. A lot of times we kind of want to get chit-chatty on email, a lot of the things we send might not be completely necessary. So if you've got small company with 10 or 20 people in there, and people are messaging in sort of an unnecessary kind of way, it's a great opportunity to ramp down on time wasted on email. And so doing things like utilizing replay to all lists, having a team meeting where everybody talks about how they can ratchet down the amount of unnecessary email that's floating around, ranging from jokes and wise words of wisdom, all the way to through maybe inappropriate message, unnecessary messages.

Oh please, don't get me started on the jokes. And I love, you know, a couple of my dear friends send me jokes all the time, and finally, I very nicely said, you know, honey, if you're going to send me a joke, if it's not business, would you please send it to my Yahoo account? And they're doing it, and every now and then I tune in to my Yahoo account and I read all the, you know, the jokes. I love, I've got a great sense of humor, I just don't have time.

You know, you've done number three tactic, which is coach, well we call it coach or suffer. You know, if people are not going to miraculously stop sending you unnecessary messages, so if you reach out and do a little bit of coaching, a little bit of sharing of best practices with them, then you're not going to have to suffer through their unnecessary emails for the rest of the year.

Great! So I've got your first one and your third one. What's number two?

Number two is to try to write better messages. Eighty percent of the professionals we surveyed said they often received messages with vague subject lines, or that require some type of clarification, which of course means sending another email. So, creating...

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