As if all the deadlines causing stress and the
high workload weren’t enough to make people at work keep their heads
down, there is the dreaded volume and velocity of e-mail to help fill
out the day.
E-mail can become so consuming that it can take away any sense of
flexibility, especially when it causes businesspeople to get lost in
the messages of the moment, taking them away from what should be the
important focus for the long term.
It’s difficult to be flexible when a day is filled with the
crisis of the moment, the laundry list of things to do, phone calls,
personnel issues and then perhaps a few hours of e-mail writing and
reading. Three-fourths of senior executives and managers now spend an
hour or more a day sending, receiving, reading or writing e-mail, and a
third spend three or more hours a day. By the time all this is done,
any sense of flexibility is gone until too late in the day.
It is estimated that in a year, the total number of e-mails sent will
hit 60 billion, with a third of executives ranking the majority of
their e-mail as unnecessary.
Businesspeople need a break from e-mail
overload, which means they should take steps to control e-mail in order
to remain flexible.
Though there are various books and ideas about managing e-mail, here
are a few simple steps that might help get e-mail under control in a
department or organization.
- If any subject or issue involves more than two e-mails, one party should call the other to resolve the issue by phone.
- No junk e-mail, no jokes.
- Only send relevant information, which is defined as just what the person needs to know.
- Limit CCs (which might be more appropriately named CYA).
- Don’t ping-pong with e-mail for a conversation; use the phone.
- Deal with it and delete it.
- Don’t read every e-mail as it comes in; handle them in batches.
While e-mail is critical in many aspects of business,
especially in dealing with different time zones and widely dispersed
customers and employees, it can become overwhelming if not kept under
Based on our global research, the five top ways that executives and
managers deal with their e-mail overload are: deleting e-mail without
reading, reading e-mail only from known sources, using filtering
software, sending fewer CCs and using multiple e-mail accounts.
At the end each day, businesspeople should see where e-mail was
effective and where it was a time-waster or diverted focus from
business objectives. If a pattern can be determined, the manager then
has an opportunity to change it for the better. Even more important,
this can identify where the manager can cut down on time spent on
e-mail, providing more time for a business activity that may matter