Taming the beast called e-mail

Taming the beast called e-mail

Taming the beast called e-mail

If you’ve been in the job force for some time, you’ll remember the invention of e-mail. Wow, wasn’t it great? So fast, so free, so easy to use! What’s not to love?

A lot, as it turns out. E-mail has proven to be both a blessing and a curse, and perhaps no where more so than on the desk of an independent travel advisor.

Over the phone from her sunny home office in Minneapolis, time-management guru Audrey Thomas shared with me some of her thoughts about how we can all tame the beast of e-mail and get our lives back on track.

“I do a lot of consulting, and as I look at people’s work, I see it’s gotten to be all about e-mail. It’s driving our businesses and driving most people’s days and it shouldn’t be,” she says.

Part of the problem is that when e-mail was invented, no one thought to develop parameters and expectations about response time. As a result, she suggests, we all developed unhealthy habits (“Every email is urgent”). As she puts it, yes it may be important, but it’s rarely urgent.

The first solution is to try to change your attitude to e-mail. If you got a voicemail from someone, do you think they’d expect a return call within seconds? Try to limit your time with e-mail in your face, working offline if necessary.

Ask your colleagues (most of our e-mail is internal, she points out) to agree on a reasonable response time – again, chances are it’s not within seconds – and let your clients know upfront that they can usually expect a response from you within, say, four hours.

Thomas also recommends shutting off automatic notifications sounds and symbols – they get a response 70% of the time within six seconds. No wonder we are distracted and can’t focus!

Next month, I’ll share some additional time management suggestions from Audrey. You never know, you (and I) may find yourself working more effectively!

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