3 Strategies for Better E-mail Management

Last Updated Jun 19, 2011 10:57 PM EDT

When you visit me in my office, I'd like to pay attention to you, but I can barely hear you over the din of my e-mail. At least, that's what it feels like sometimes -- and I know many of you are in the same metaphorical boat. (The boat is actually made of e-mail.)

Recently, Mitch Joel, president of the marketing agency Twist Image, wrote a blog post on 5 ways to survive your inbox. He has some interesting insights. I don't necessarily agree with all of them, but here are 3 that I think have a ton of power behind them:

Use folders. Whether you're using Outlook and set up folders or using Gmail and assigning tags, be sure to organizing your messages in a logical taxonomy. Of course, there's a bit of an art to this; too many folders, for example, and you'll have just as many problems as if you leave all your mail to fester in the inbox.

Create a hierarchy of responses. This one is really important and often overlooked. Set a triage order for replying to messages according to your business priorities. For example, respond to clients first, then members of your team, then friends and family.

Tell people how to communicate with you. Here's the real gem in this post. The problem is that e-mail is not a one-size-fits-all tool, and without guidance, most people have no idea how to best communicate with you. To solve this problem, Mitch Joel recommends that you use your e-mail's signature block to communicate some e-mail ground rules. He writes:

I've seen people with signature files that not only have their contact information, but say things like, "please only respond back to me, the other people who are listed on this email are just there to be kept in the loop," or, "there's no need to respond to back me, I just wanted you to see this so that you are kept in the loop." A little clarity on how you like to interact via email will help keep your inbox clutter down to a dull roar and it will also teach other people new ways that they can use their email with more efficacy.
Check out the full post for all of the details and other tips. [via WebWorkerDaily]

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