Saturday, June 11, 2005

Email - 8 ways to keep it from being a complete waste of time

The above is a link to a flash cartoon that everyone who emails should watch - ESPECIALLY those people who insist on forwarding every "funny" or "interesting" thing that crosses their inbox.

It is truly amazing how durable some of the material floating around the 'net is. (This would probably be a good subject for a psychology doctoral dissertation). I have seen some material come in that I saw 10 years ago - in the Web's infancy!

....and then you have all of the urban myths and online hoaxes that are still floating around.

It is amazing that we get ANYTHING done via email.

So, how do we get anything done? Here are some suggestions.

1. Don't forward any funny/thoughtful stuff/rumors, unless it's to your best friend and you have already talked with them about it. We're all busy, and more than half the stuff out there is old anyway.

2. Keep answers short and sweet. Good, concise writing is at a premium online, and will get you noticed. (Yes, your high school English teacher was right all along).

3. Organize your incoming mail. Use the filtering and rules built-in to your email program to file your mail based on source or destination.

4. Don't leave your email program up all the time. Specify a time period every so often (maybe one an hour, maybe once a day, etc.) to deal with the incoming email.

You pay a huge brain-time penalty when switching from task X to checking email, and then switching back again. Leave the email program off until you actually need it.

5. Delete Delete Delete. The electronic equivalent of cleaning out your shelves - get rid of the stuff you don't need. If you are in a regulatory environment where everything needs to be archived (like the financial services or healthcare industries) create a separate mailbox for stuff to be stashed - out of the way of your regular in-box.

Don't keep it if you don't need it!

6. Attachments - don't leave them in your inbox. They bloat your in-box, and can create problems if the box takes too much space on your hard drive. If you don't need them, delete them! If you do, save them in a standard location on your drive (say, inside an "attachments" folder in your standard documents folder.)

7. Be ruthless when it comes to deleting suspicious looking emails. There's no free lunch available when it comes to relationships, cheap commercial software, or Nigerian bank accounts.

8. Do I even need to mention keeping your anti-virus stuff up-to-date, and your spyware database as well? This is ESPECIALLY critical for Windows users.

So there you have it - 8 ways to make your email use more productive. Do you have some more? Add a comment!

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