With Windows Mobile offering excellent access to email I started to think about how long I've used email for and how I use it...
I've had an email address since 1989. My first email account was on our Texas Instruments MSG system which was a mainframe based email system that was used across the company. We all had 4 character aliases (mine was JAY1) and could send email and even attachments real time! Then through the various companies I worked for I used MS Mail and then Microsoft Exchange for corporate email .
I relalised this week that over the past 17 years I've developed some interesting strategies for managing the huge amount of email I receive.
Currently I get between 400-500 emails a day....
To deal with all this I follow some principles:
1) For all distribution lists I create rules that filter email to subfolders unless my name is in the TO or CC fields.
2) I filter all Out of Office replies to a separate folder (important for this time of year!)
3) Only emails sent TO me or CC'd to me enter my main Inbox
4) I allocate time in each day to deal with emails
When I then process my emails I follow the strategy :
1) I read my Inbox first
2) I read any distribution lists when I have time - I filter them by conversation and delete the entire conversation if I'm not interested in the thread.
I'm always staggered by people who think email is a realtime process - for me it's a batch process and while Direct Push gives me realtime access I tend to process my email in batches. So when tackling my inbox I always make sure I only ever open the email once - when I have opened it I either:
a) Respond immediately
b) Set a follow up when I have time to follow up (post holiday) adding it to my calendar.
c) Defer the email to someone else and set a follow up note on when I should follow up.
d) Delete it!
Some of this is based on the principles in the book Getting Things Done by David Allen
When I'm out of the office - I always make people aware through my OOF message that I am out until a certain date and that you should not expect a response until that date UNLESS you resend me your email with the word URGENT in it! (If I indeed am planning to access email)
It's amazing how few people resend an email... however it does mean that when you return from leave you can always quickly see which emails are important and need action. Last time I had a couple of weeks off I received approx 4,500 emails and only 8 got resent as Urgent!
Finally - I have 3 things about people's use of email that really annoy me:
1) People who send massive attachments of information to huge distribution lists... post it on a Sharepoint (or fileshare) and link to it!
2) People who send emails asking for information or feedback with either no date specified or ridiculously short timeframes to respond in. Whenever I send an email asking for action from people I always make sure I give them sufficient notice and also make them aware of when I need their response.
3) People who complain they can't manage the amount of email they receive - normally these are people who don't use rules!