Human Resources

Don't Let E-Mail Steal Your Time: Six Tips

March 01, 2006
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Don't Let E-Mail Steal Your Time: Six Tips

E-mail can rob employees of two work hours each day, according to 'Total Workday Control Using Microsoft® Outlook: The Eight Best Practices of Task and E-mail Management,' by

Michael Linenberger.

Spending eight hours to learn a new way to manage e-mail will create a 25% increase in productivity, he says. Here's how to get started:

  • Quit storing e-mails in your inbox. Most of us leave important e-mails in our inboxeswith the intention of acting on them later. Track all tasks Outlook's Task system, Linenbergeradvises. "It's the key to everything. The relief of having one prioritized place to look forto-dos is amazing."
  • Convert e-mails to tasks as soon as you read them. It's simple: Click on the e-mail,drag it to the task icon, and give it a name. Once you start doing this you'll stop needing tore-read e-mails, which saves a lot of time.
  • Make two task lists: One daily, one long-term. The "two list" system allows you tokeep the most important tasks in front of you, keep lower-priority tasks out of sight so youdon't feel overwhelmed, and separate long-term from short-term tasks. "Having everything inone list is like having a three-foot tall stack of papers on your desk," Linenberger says."It's all in one place, but it's too paralyzing to deal with."
  • Break down tasks into mini projects and next steps. Say one item on your long-termlist is 'write quarterly report.' You can't do this in one day, so break it into mini projectsand determine what steps to put on your list, such as 'request copy of last year's report.'Making a big task manageable increases the likelihood that you'll do it in a timely manner.
  • Prioritize every morning. Before starting your day, determine which two or three itemson your to-do list will keep you from going home that night. Then, complete these tasks earlyin the day. 'The earlier you get these high-priority items out of the way, the better,'Linenberger says. 'It's a huge relief to know that after your self-imposed deadline, the restof the day is yours.'
  • Put the oldest tasks at the bottom of your list. Newest tasks have the most energy andthey're the most relevant. Doing this will keep your task list fresh and useable.
'Total Workday Control Using Microsoft® Outlook: The Eight Best Practices of Task and E-mail Management' (New Academy Publishers, 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0-9749304-1-1; ISBN-10:

0-9749304-1-5; $21.95) is available at bookstores nationwide and major online booksellers.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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