Friday, March 06, 2009

Teaching Your In-Box Who’s Boss

Stop wasting time, eliminate guilt and get more done. Advice from the experts.
TO: Readers
FROM: Hank B
RE: E-mail management

FYI: Farhad Manjoo had an interesting take in yesterday’s New York Times about the age-old problem of handling (or not feeling guilty about ignoring) the deluge of daily e-mail that’s dominating our work and personal lives these days. Borrowing heavily from productivity gurus Merlin Mann and David Allen, Manjoo offered some good tips for making your online life less stressful and more productive. Next week, I’ll offer up some snarky responses to folks who call you on the phone (or stop you in the hall) to say: “Hey, did you get my e-mail?”

Expert suggestions for better e-mail mojo:
Limit Your Time With E-Mail. Turn off all auto-notifications that alert you to incoming mail, and if you must check mail while you’re on the go, keep it to a minimum.
Clear Your In-Box. Set aside an hour or two to respond to every important message that has dogged you in the last couple months (anything older than that is too ancient to bother with).
Archive It. Most e-mail messages require no action or response on your part. Skim through these missives (or leave them unread), then shoot them into your archive and forget them.
Respond. If the e-mail message calls for an easy answer, send it. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done has a rule of thumb that comes in handy here: If responding is going to take two minutes or less, you’re better off doing it now than procrastinating.
Forward It. If the message is better handled by someone else — your boss, your sister, anyone but you — send it off to that person, then archive it.
Hold It For Later. OK. Some e-mail messages demand complicated answers that require some thought. Other messages simply require information (or permission/approval) not yet available. Don’t pull the trigger finger too soon. Let it sit until you get the ammunition you need.

Amen. It’s your inbox and no one else’s. You own it. You decide where, when and how to respond to all this missives demanding your attention. Thanks Farhad.

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