Email management and lightening speed

I've learned a new job skill. I may have had it before but it was dormant until I tool on such an externally visible role. It's e-mail management. I was kind of good at it before, but it had more to do with my elaborate network of folders and sub-folders that allowed me, at any moment, to locate the desired document or e-mail with a few swift clicks of the mouse (I'm all about the Trackball Explorer). These days, it's about maintaining the ability to have real and meaningful e-mail conversations with people while dealing with a high volume environment.

I've been asked before who manages my e-mail inbox. At first, this question sounds like a joke, but it has been asked seriously. And I'm sure it would seem all the more remarkable if you all knew that I type with only six fingers (I have ten of them, but my pinky and ring fingers get to relax and the others pound away at the keyboard). In case anyone is still wondering if I am the ultimate diva (puleeze), I answer my own mail (what kind of diva installs her own garbage disposal and picks up her doggy's lawn bombs?).

Sometimes, I am still amazed when I log onto the system in the AM and see my unread e-mail expand before my eyes. Or I meet with someone in my office and out of the corner of my eye on the monitor...blip-new mail, blip-new mail, blip-new mail; talk faster Heather, you have some mail to answer!

I even have a philosophy around e-mail: open it once. Do I need to do anything? If so and it's quick, do it now. Can I delete it? Do I need to forward it? Can I just file it away (folder, sub-folder, etcetera)? More and more, I've come to love, love, love the feeling of deleting (and then going into my deleted items and deleting again....<evil laugh>)..and boy do I get to. Good thing I don't want to opportunity to help a foreign diplomat recover his millions, nor am I in the market for some viagra.

Have you received a response from me within about 15 minutes of your sending an e-mail? Many of you have. But sometimes it can take a few days. Sometimes I need to ponder on your resume before I offer advice or forward it along. I, for one, love the e-mail. Aside from the fact that I like my job and to help people, each e-mail is like my own little Sally Field really like me, well, enough to type in my e-mail address at least. There's really something affirming about receiving e-mails from people that are asking for help...getting their resume to the right person, my opinion on something or other. Happy to do it too!

But, ultimately, I am always striving for the magic moment I achieved recently when my e-mail inbox was plain old empty (I know, first time in years!) because I had gotten through it all. It's e-mail nirvana...nobody left to answer for a sec...blip-new mail.

Comments (14)
  1. tzagotta says:

    I get the impression you want even more e-mail, judging by all the mailto links in your message! :o)

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    tzagotta-well, i started with one hyperlink and couldn’t stop. Seroiously, if someone wanted to e-mail me, it’s not hard to find my address anyway, so it’s kind of a joke.

  3. William Luu says:

    Some people might even go so far to say you’ve gone crazy… Because it’s "common knowledge" that there are email harvesting bots all over the place looking for email addresses on websites to send spam to. People generally "garble" their email addresses when they post them online these days.

  4. One of the nice things about working alongside 1,500 other bloggers is that if you let a thought go unblogged…

  5. Well, you’ll be glad to know Marc Orchant and I are developing a new internal Microsoft course just for people like you Heather 🙂

    It should be available in September / October.

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    William-my e-mail address is already all over this blog. I have a good junk mail filter so when I want to see some crazy stuff, I just open my junk mail folder. I’m not too worried about it.

    Jonathan-I think Il ike "zero e-mail bounce" better ; )

    Jeremy-and by "people like you", you mean? People who have e-mail? Bloggers? What’s "like me"? (The correct answer is :nobody is like you Heather", but seriously, not sure what you are getting at).

  7. Yakim says:

    Hi Heather,

    Not knowing Jeremy, I gather that he is trying to say people who are over-whelmed by the volume of email that they receive or are looking for best practices on how to manage their inboxes. Jeremy…correct me if I am wrong.

    On another note, there are several automated auto-reply software programs for the eBay world. High volume sellers receive a ton of email and I came across a very good program – Have a look and let me know what you think.


    Disclaimer: I do not work for the company, own any shares in the company nor will I benefit in any way from it’s success.

  8. Garrh @ posting minutes after waking up. Sorry.

    "People like you" being people who are, as Yakim noted, overwhelmed by their inboxes. I’m glad you’ve taken control of yours, but the course’ll teach you a whole lot of other things which’ll not only help you take fuller control of your email, but will also help you help others, help you organize your time / tasks / commitments (ie: projects for non-MS folk).

    If you’ve heard of (and I’d be surprised if you hadn’t) Getting Things Done, this is like GTD, but brought right down to "okay, how do I FIX email and time management" and then applied directly to Microsoft and Microsoft’s culture.

    We’re hoping the end product meets our vision, as it’s something we (Marc Orchant and I) recognize that Microsoft folk desperately need.

    If the vision doesn’t pan out, I’m in Redmond about once a month now, so if you want to grab a coffee and go through some simple steps I can definitely free up some time.


    Sorry for the "people like you". Completely tactless of me. Hope that clarifies 🙂

  9. JobsBlog says:

    I think that class already exists. It’s called "Managing Action," and it’s a must-take for Microsoft new hires. Has been for years. That said, knowing Heather (and knowing she probably took Managing Action during her first 6 months), I can attest to the fact that she doesn’t need help in managing her inbox, etc. She is super, super organized. And if Heather’s inbox is like mine (which again, I assume it is), she and I get more email than the average MS employee. She should probably be teaching a class on email management. 🙂


  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    Jeremy-I didn’t take offense…I just wasn’t sure what the impression was that you got from my post. So no worries. Good luck with the class you are working on.

    Gretchen-thanks…you’re right. That is what I was thinking but didn’t want to say out loud. I actually exert total control over my inbox and I am a master with the folders, rules wizards, etc (and Love LOVE LOVE destop search right now). As you mention, the issue is we get more mail that needs to be responded to (versus the FYI mails)than others, so you just have to get it done (I schedule my day based on similar activities I can do together…I code the subject lines in my inbox so the mails that correspond with these activities can be sorted…I know, I am sick). And I try not to use reponse templates unless I absolutely have to. "Managing action" was where I got the "touch it once". Good class.

  11. The Managing Action course is being discontinued. We’re designing the replacement which is more about how teams can work together, how OneNote fits in, as well as hundreds of practical things you can do throughout your day to take control of your inbox.

    If you guys have, great. But there are thousands of MS employees who (quite literally) have thousands upon thousands of items in their inboxes and are complete slaves to, ultimately, whoever yells loudest.

    Anyways, I guess the course isn’t for folk like y’all (who have everything under control), but for the other 49,998 employees 😉 (just kidding, we know a few who’ve taken Managing Action or GTD type systems to make their lives much, much easier… we’re just trying to make it even more accessible than GTD or Managing Action, which were very "workflow" oriented and were very proscriptive in their approach).

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Jeremy-sounds like a good class. I love OneNote and InfoPath (sorry, I can’t help it…I also love MSN Desktop Search)

  13. One of the nice things about working alongside 1,500 other bloggers is that if you let a thought go unblogged

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