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Deal with Email Overload in 3 Easy Steps

By Rigdha Acharya on Dec 19 2011 • Filed under Business

Deal with Email Overload in 3 Easy Steps

Emails are an unavoidable reality of doing business these days. Most small business owners I talk to receive anywhere from 200-1000 emails a day. And, not all of these emails are “business critical.” No wonder most of us feel overwhelmed by email and some of us even avoid it completely. However, as more and more business is done online, ignoring business critical emails could be catastrophic. Here are three tips to help you deal with the email overload without completely ignoring it:

Clear the inbox

The inbox is not a garage. Don’t treat it like a storage space. Think of the inbox like your living room. You work hard to keep the living room clean so extend the same principle to your emails. Keeping the Inbox clean helps you quickly scan through the emails you’ve received to pick the important ones that you want to read and respond to. It also helps you consume emails at bite size. Wouldn’t you rather deal with 25 emails at a time than 200? That can be achieved and it has to start with a clean inbox.

Follow the Rule of 4D’s

The decision making principle called the “Rule of 4Ds” has helped many of my clients get rid of email clutter and use email as an effective means of communication. Here is how you use this principle:

  • Take each email and realize that you have four options in dealing with it. You can either “Delete it,” “Do it,” “Delegate it” or “Defer it.”
  • “Delete” emails that do not have any value. These are the forwarded chain letters, newsletters that you no longer read and junk mail.
  • “Do” as in respond or take action for the emails that can be acted upon in two minutes or less. These are the emails that require a quick response from you. It is better to complete them than to put them on your To Do list.
  • Delegate” emails that can be effectively answered by a team member. Your team members, in some instances, may be able to respond to some emails better than you can because they are the first line of contact for various tasks.
  • “Defer” emails that require your inputs, are important and take longer than two minutes to complete. Once you have finished this process for each email, set aside a 30 minute time block to go through and take action on your deferred emails.

Write effective emails

One of the best ways of minimizing email clutter is to learn how to send effective emails. In general, you want to ensure that your reader knows what he/she needs to do after reading your emails. Follow these four rules to start writing effective emails:

1.      Let them know what actions you expect them to take

2.      Let them know when they need to reply back by

3.      Give the bottom line first

4.      Be direct in your communications

Follow these tips and I can guarantee that your email communications and the level of emails you receive will both improve.

Over to you: What are some of your favourite methods to deal with email overwhelm?

1 Comment

  1. Very succinct and helpful!

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