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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