by CIO Staff

7 Tips for Getting of Control of E-mail

Jun 27, 20053 mins
Enterprise Applications

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 control.

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 more.