Reduce the Time You Spend Fielding E-mail

If it seems like you and your employees are spending too much of your time fielding e-mail, you are not alone. Here are six tips for streamlining your e-mail handling processes:

View e-mail as a tool for keeping touch rather than for urgent communication. E-mail should not be used for urgent communication. While it is excellent at helping people stay informed, anything you need in less than 90 minutes should be done by phone or in person.

Schedule times to receive e-mail. By selecting an option whereby you receive your e-mail every 90 minutes, or even every two hours, you will be able to consolidate your work and break the habit of constantly checking for new mail.

Manage your e-mail with rules. Many e-mail programs have rules that can be applied to how you receive your e-mail. For example, you could set up a rule to have certain items placed automatically into various of your e-mail folders, without its going into or through your inbox.

Use preview pane. You can set up most e-mail programs to allow items to be reviewed in "preview pane" view. This allows you to see the content of the e-mail without having to double-click on the message to open it. Every second helps!

Put the main point or request in the first two sentences of the e-mail. This practice helps your readers know clearly and quickly what the message is about. Too many people bury the main point too far down in the e-mail.

Make the subject line specific. By putting detailed information in the subject line you will enable others to properly sort their work. Many of us have a tendency to use a general subject, such as "Tuesday Meeting." Instead, your subject may be more effective if it states: "Please bring the attached handout to the Tuesday meeting."

Marsha Egan President Reading, Pa.