How to Manage E-mail at Work

With about 5.5 trillion emails sent each year, an amount that increases by 40 per cent annually, this electronic form of communication has become a major source of stress. A study by the University of Western Ontario found that managers spend more than an hour a day on email, extending their working week by an average of 5 hours. The study also found that only 17 per cent of email users can answer their emails in the same day.

To cope:

1. Read e-mails once, answer immediately, delete if possible or move them to folders. Overflowing in-boxes are depressing and take too long to read and sort.

2. Insert e-mail responses in the subject line whenever possible rather than composing a new message each time, and reply only when you have something to say.

3. Use the automatic signature function in your e-mail so that people can phone you or send you information via snail mail.

4. Don’t waste time acknowledging receipt of e-mail. Also, don’t email and phone with the same message.

5. Don’t insert the recipient’s address first before composing the email message. You might mistakenly send a message before it’s finished or when it’s saying something you didn’t want it to say.

6. Use the ‘rule of three’: if you’ve gone back and forth three times on a topic and you’re still confused or have questions, pick up the phone.

7. Never send an e-mail if you’re angry. You can write it (either as a draft, or preferably in your word-processing program) then save it and look over it when you feel calmer.

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