Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Is Your Email Strategy?


An AOL, Opinion Research Corp. study in 2007 found that –
15% of Americans say they are addicted to email.
59% of those using portable devices check email as it arrives.
43% of users sleep near their email unit to hear incoming messages.
40% consider email accessibility when they plan a trip.
83% check their email once a day while on vacation.
43% check their email first thing every morning.
Things haven’t gotten much better in 2013. Technology that was invented to facilitate communication without manual interruption many times serves to decrease real human communication. Co-workers sitting 20 feet apart prefer to send email and then walk over an hour later to ask if you read their email instead of having an in-person conversation! Our mobile devices work to tighten this noose further by exposing us to new ailments like the phantom vibration syndrome. The net effect of these technological advances (sic) has been to take us further away from being present.
In order to ensure that I manage my inbox and not the other way around, I have devised some simple strategies --
  • Instead of aiming to clear my inbox every day, I strive to address important messages from my immediate co-workers within one business day. The SLA for all other work related emails directly addressed to me is up to three business days.
  • I encourage phone calls, text messages and drop-ins for urgent communication.
  • The beginning of the day is reserved for working and the end of the day is for emailing.
  • Short time blocks are used for scanning and responding to important messages. I carve out longer time blocks once or twice a week to meet my three business day SLA. This ensures that I can be responsive without spending all of my time in my inbox.
One tool that has helped me tremendously is the “important and unread” filter in Gmail. It automagically bumps up emails that matter and I can pretty much ignore the rest of my Gmail inbox.
In Outlook, I make heavy use of filters and rules to bubble up important emails. However, I don’t find it as effective as Gmail’s automatic filtering capability.
I have just started using the VIP feature on my iPhone to help prioritize the messages on my phone. I don’t have enough experience using this feature to declare victory yet.
What are your email strategies? Are there tools that you find invaluable in managing your inbox? Share them in your comments and I’ll try to synthesize the best strategies in a future post.

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