3 Time-Saving E-mail Replies for Emptying Your Inbox

Last Updated Jan 13, 2010 10:24 AM EST

E-mail is both a blessing and a curse. If you're looking for ways to reduce the drain e-mail has on your productivity without throwing out the metaphorical baby, I've got three handy reply strategies you can use to quickly respond to (and often resolve) e-mail threads.

  1. I'm not the right person for this. I frequently get questions and requests for action from people who think I'm the right contact, but in reality I am only tangentially involved in the project at hand. In the old days, I'd try to be a hero and take on the task anyway. I'd end up spending a lot of time researching something and get an obligatory "thanks" at the cost of work I should have been doing instead. The better solution? Say, "Sorry, but I'm not the right guy. You might want to ping Janet or Brian instead," and add them to the CC line. Mission accomplished.
  2. Do you still need this? No one's perfect, and you neglected an e-mail so long that it's 3 weeks old by the time you work your way down to it. Don't reflexively jump on the task -- send an e-mail that says, "Sorry it took me so long! I was on vacation/in medical school/at rehab/doing a special project for the CEO. Do you still need this? I'm still happy to dive in." In my experience, 75% of the time, the issue resolved of its own accord. Mission accomplished.
  3. Here's a link. As the dude who knows everything about a particular part of the publishing process, every writer I know e-mails me frequently with "clarifying questions" about how to do their job. In a sense, that's fine -- we're all on the same team and I don't mind helping. But at a certain point, you realize that your own time is valuable too. If you're frequently pestered with questions about something you are the appointed expert on, write a short document and post it on a network share. Then, when you get the inevitable question, just replay with a link to the instructions. You'll save a ton of time in the long term -- mission accomplished.
Start the year off right with some e-mail-reduction strategies. Here are some other e-mail posts you might find useful: