Posted by Paul Babicki
The following is from an article in "the VAR Guy"
Your Time is Money: Don’t Waste it in E-Mail Hell
Nov. 19, 2013 Elliot Markowitz | Business Acceleration InfocenterMost solution providers are also small-business owners. They have to make sure their current customers are served, continuously prospect for new business to keep that pipeline full and run their own organization.
There is never enough time in the day, days in week or weeks in the month to get it all done correctly. It’s a never-ending struggle to strike the right balance.
It’s a labor of love, to say the least, and while most solution providers get the servicing piece down, they do not spend enough time prospecting or marketing themselves, and they either are too hands-on, micromanaging the daily running of their business, or are too hands-off, ignoring problems until it is too late. As business proprietors, solution providers must evaluate the best use of their time and then focus on those areas.
One of the biggest time-sucks for many executives is poor e-mail management. I once worked in an organization that disabled the “reply all” button in Microsoft Outlook because it was being abused so badly. E-mail has become a safe way to include too many people in business activities to make sure nobody is ever left out of the loop. It is the primary venue for communicating in business today, and with the permeation of smartphones, 24/7 access is commonplace.
Managing e-mail is an essential skill. I make it a point to keep my inbox in the 25 e-mail range and use it more as a “to do” list. If it’s still in my inbox, then the issue is not resolved. Not cleaning out your inbox, setting up filters or establishing a filing system will create confusion and inefficiency and waste your valuable time.
I recently came across an article on Inc.com that outlined seven tips to help people get their email under control. Here is the gist of the advice, with a few more insights:
1. Clear out the junk e-mail:Junk e-mails get through even the best spam filters, while legitimate e-mails can get caught. Go through your spam filter and your junk folder daily to make sure nothing is in there that shouldn't be. Also, unsubscribe to services and other newsletters that you don’t remember ever signing up for or you really don’t read anymore.
2. Create a smart folder system:Set up a comprehensive folder system that is easy for you to recognize. Also, set up smart folders where some emails from pre-determined sources can get filed automatically, thus uncluttering your inbox. A cluttered inbox is a non-functional one.You sell cloud services, use it yourself: The easiest point of entry into the cloud is e-mail storage and backup. Use it. It’s secure and efficient and you can search easier.
4. Enforce a 24-hour response time: Answer every e-mail within 24 hours. That’s right. That is the professional thing to do. This doesn’t mean you must find a comprehensive solution to every problem, but a simple “got it” will stave off future e-mails reminding you about the same subject. The object is to reduce volume and clutter, so be responsive.Don’t abuse “reply all”: Many e-mails start with a laundry list of interested parties but then wind up being only relevant to two or three individuals down the road. Take people that are no longer stakeholders in the project off the e-mail chain. Be respectful to other people’s time and request to be taken off chains immediately when you no longer need be involved.
6. Use template signatures: You probably find yourself typing out the same responses to the same questions. Well, take a handful of the top five requests you get, create a template response and use it. These signatures will save you a lot of time and clear email out of your inbox quicker.
7. Keep it professional and know when to take it offline: Eighty percent of communication is not verbal. That flies in the face of e-mail being an effective communications tool. Know that. People will read into an e-mail and perceive tone and criticism that, quite frankly, wasn’t meant. Keep your e-mails professional and not critical. Also, my rule is after three e-mails have been sent regarding a topic, it’s time to pick up the phone. Arguments over e-mail are never interpreted correctly and a simple phone call can clear up confusion before it starts.Keep the “Subject” line relevant: Many e-mail communications twist and turn and start addressing information far removed from the original communications. Take the time and change the subject line so the e-mail is more easily recognized and searched. Also, be specific in your e-mail subject lines so the recipient can prioritize accordingly. The subject lines, “For you,” or “question” or anything else vague wastes time.
Regardless of the widespread use of texting, snap-chatting and backroom communications on social networking sites, e-mail is not going away anytime soon .Take the time to set up your e-mail parameters and etiquette and it will save you time, money and headaches in the future.
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