Respond to Email More Quickly with these Time Management Strategies
Working in the modern age means that you have to take responding to email into your time management practices. Do you have days when you receive hundreds of emails, even after using the filtering techniques described previously? Receiving only what you need to deal with is only half the battle. You must create a system that shrinks the response time and investment if you still get a large volume of emails.
If you are set to craft a long email response, ask yourself if it could be quicker to pick up the phone and place a call. You can talk faster than you can type. If you don’t need documentation of the correspondence, you might be able to shave half the time by calling and speaking rather than writing out an email.
The other option is sending a voice text or video email. If you have a webcam you can create video email quickly using a service such as BombBomb. In less time than it takes to craft a medium-length email, you can record the video in BombBomb. While it’s finishing the processing of the video, you can write the short text subject line, cut and paste the email address to send it to, and then press the Send button. You just saved time and improved the quality of the communication.
When responding to a long email with many questions and points of clarification, create an opening greeting at the top of the email and then instruct the person that your responses follow in red, or blue, or whatever color you choose. This enables you to avoid scrolling up and down when you craft your response and allows you to refer to the question because it’s on the screen right in front of you.
Employing an email response system
Performing triage is an excellent way to approach your email responses. Some mail you get is dead on arrival; other messages are of interest to you but not critical to address immediately; and others need your attention right now. When you receive 100 or more new messages a day, you need a good email management system.
When you open up your mailbox, resort to the three Ds: delete, do it, or defer. Every email fits into one of these categories.
Although your computer doesn’t take up any more space if you have 10 or 10,000 emails, the clutter of useless, obsolete, irrelevant correspondence in your inbox can seem like a mile-high stack of stuff you have to carry with you.
Keep your inbox clean by discarding any email that’s unimportant or long-obsolete. As for the advertisements, forwarded jokes, urban myths, and the string of thanks, you’re-welcome, have-a-good-day, see-you-after-work correspondence, read them (or don’t) and delete immediately.
Also delete without opening any email with a subject line that seems too good to be true or seems like a marketing pitch from an unknown sender. How realistic is it to think that some company has sought you out to offer you an opportunity to make millions? And if a deal is really so incredible, would the advertiser really need to tell you that? Probably not. Beware of any email with subject lines containing misspelled words or words with symbols in place of letters (such as Fr** Mon!y). Spammers do this to try and bypass spam filters.
Knowing how to delete helps everyone in your company. When employees share a network, the server fills up when everyone retains all email, which can stop the flow of inbound email for the entire company. Most networks establish a limit to the size of individual inboxes and send notices when you get close to the limit. Then it’s time for some major housecleaning. Better to keep up with the cleaning rather than let it build up.
Nike coined the phrase “Just do it.” That’s not bad advice for email management, either. Of course, this do it response is critical if the matter is urgent or must be done today, but it’s also a sound strategy for most other email, too. If a message warrants a response, do it. Now. Answer the question. Forward the message. Transfer the to-do to your task list or schedule. Send a response. If you need little more than a click or a minute or two to respond, file, or forward, then don’t waste time by keeping it for later.
Just as with mail or papers in your inbox, the best strategy is to handle it once and then get it off your plate.
For those email messages that aren’t critical-care matters, it may make sense to set them aside to address after you pass through all your correspondence. So you don’t forget and leave them buried in your inbox to be remembered too late, immediately place these email messages in an appropriate folder so they’ll pop up later for your attention.
Messages that fall into this category may include personal email that you want to read carefully and to which you want to take time to craft a response. They can also include flexible-timeline projects that don’t have to be done today or even this week.
Actually, there’s a fourth D: delegate. It falls in the defer category. Although you can simply click the Forward button and send the message along with instructions for carrying out the requested action, the reliability of email is suspect enough that you want to remind yourself to follow up if you hear nothing back from the delegate.
Automate your email responses
The ability to plan with email communication saves you loads of time. If you regularly field the same FAQs numerous times during the week or day, it may make sense to craft template emails of standard responses. Place these templates in a folder where you can easily access them, and you’re ready to cut and paste your reply, using the form language and making personal tweaks as necessary.
For example, if you get queries from clients about the status of their projects, you may put together a standard response informing them that you’re attending to their project and will get in touch with them by such-and-such a date.
Don’t forget about the automated message function when you’re out of the office. Set up a message with the pertinent details: when you’ll return, whether you’ll be checking email, when people can expect to hear from you, and who they can contact if they need immediate assistance.