How often does this happen? You start the day with great intentions for barreling through a list of priorities. But at quitting time, you’ve only accomplished one: getting (most of) your email answered and filed. You congratulate yourself on having done that, though a nagging voice in the back of your head whispers that, really, you haven’t done anything at all.
Email doesn’t have to consume your life. Here are 7 ideas for turning email into the tool it is, rather than the be-all and end-all of your days.
1. Lower the volume. When you email the same people too many times per day, they pay less attention. Ideally, your emails will be like eagerly awaited letters that, as a kid, you used to check the mail box for (remember that?)
2. Don’t ask to be kept “in the loop.” Trust your employees to do their jobs without your constant oversight. If you don’t think they’ll execute against goals you’ve set unless you’re cc-ed on every email, get a new team.
3. Return email in batches. Rather than answer each email as it comes in, set windows twice per day (when you’re not concentrating on more focused work) when you can crank out 10 replies at once.
4. Be clear. If something could be misconstrued or misunderstood, requiring a 20-email chain to clarify, pick up the phone or go talk in person.
5. Spell correctly. Use correct grammar. Not only does it look more professional, in this day and age you never know when emails will wind up in the newspaper or forwarded somewhere you never intended. You’ll look like a fool if you type like a tween sending texts.
6. Leave the iPhone or Blackberry at your desk sometimes. You don’t need to check email in line at the deli counter. Really. It can wait. Say hi to the person making your sandwich instead.
7. Remember, email is not your job. Like meetings and conference calls, it is a tool to do your job. If all you’re doing is filing and answering emails, you’re probably not getting anywhere. Focus on results, not your inbox, and you’ll get a lot more done.