October 24, 2014

Small Business Advice

Flood of email demands good management

"Your email inbox is a bit like a Las Vegas roulette machine. You know, you just check it and check it, and every once in a while there's some juicy little tidbit of reward, like the three quarters that pop down on a one-armed bandit. And that keeps you c

Jerry Osteryoung | 1/20/2014

I think most of us would agree that the vast number of emails we receive every day has become a bit overwhelming. Many executives get upwards of 500 emails a day.

While technology has provided some help with managing our inboxes, this problem seems to be getting worse with time rather than better.

That said, there are a few things you can do to help keep this glut of emails in check so you do not have to sacrifice your responsiveness to your staff. The key here is making sure you are only receiving emails you need to see.

People overuse the CC feature, often copying multiple parties without any thought to who really needs to see the message. You can help minimize how many superfluous emails you receive by simply instructing your staff what you want to be copied on.

There are no set rules here. It is a matter of using common sense, then being open with your staff. The number of emails I receive has decreased by 50 percent simply because I gently explained to my staff what I wanted to see and what I did not want to see.

The “Delete” key can also be a big help. Often, you can figure out whether an email is worth reading simply by looking at who sent it and the subject line. If you do not know the sender or the subject line seems strange, delete it.

Many of us subscribe to various mailing lists because we think we might benefit from the info they send out. But if we are honest, we know we rarely have time to read them, and they just end up getting deleted anyway. Your best bet here is to unsubscribe.

Rather than reading and responding to emails all day long as they arrive, try allocating two hours a day to work in your inbox. This approach does wonders for your productivity.

Keep in mind that no law says every email needs a response. Respond only when a reply is really needed, and unless you have a real concern with a message you were copied on, a reply from you is probably not necessary.

When a response is needed, my favorite tool is the email template. Prebuilt templates are a very fast and easy way of replying to specific requests when a standard response will do.

I am sure you can think of a few cases when you could use a standard response rather than taking the time to type a new message. I use templates when the person’s request is going to take time to analyze. My standard response thanks them for their email and lets them know I received their request and will get back with them in a certain number of days.

The one-minute rule is another aid — if you can reply to an email in one minute or less, do it right away. Like paper, you want to handle emails as few times as possible, and this rule ensures you can get through your inbox quickly.

Now go out and make sure that you are not allowing your email to take you away from the tasks that produce real value.

You can do this!

Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here.

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

Tags: Florida Small Business

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick -

Florida Orchestra's Michael Francis
Florida Orchestra's Michael Francis

Florida Orchestra's Michael Francis talks making music and a home.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

How much do you get into Halloween?

  • I'm into it - parties, decorating, theme parks, whatever I can fit in
  • I just participate for the kids
  • Boo - I keep the lights off to avoid trick-or-treaters

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe