Emails piling up? It's time to 'be ruthless'
I'll admit it, I'm an email hoarder, possessed by an unrealistic fear that I will need to refer to my old emails again, “someday.”
But someday rarely (and usually never) comes. Nonetheless, that's how I came to acquire 4,197 emails in my inbox.
Wondering how to manage this rather unmanageable habit, I happened to read “Unload Email Overload” (Balboa Press, 2012) by Bob O'Hare, a coach who specializes in organization skills, and was thereby inspired to change my habits. Perhaps you will find O'Hare's suggestions helpful, too. Having done his research, O'Hare says email overload results in a host of bad outcomes: lost productivity, loss of priority focus, less creative thinking and a negative impact on work/life balance.
What email habits should we change? One of O'Hare's key principles is to “delete aggressively.” In fact, O'Hare says the goal is to completely empty your inbox each day! How, I wondered, can I possibly do that? The answer, says O'Hare, is to “be ruthless.”
So I decided to try it out, and I ruthlessly deleted 3,203 emails, leaving me with a mere and manageable 994. O'Hare would probably cluck his tongue at me, but I am proud of the accomplishment.
Another of O'Hare's email-management recommendations is to create a “Read It Later” file, and you certainly know what kind of correspondence goes in there. Mostly junk, but hey, we like to read junk. Once you've established your “Read It Later” file, you can dash through that pile of unimportant emails when you have the time and inclination, then quickly dispose of them.
I found the “Read It Later” idea to be not only a time saver but also an easy-to-locate occasional respite from the normal intensity of the work day.
O'Hare recommends reading emails only two or three times a day. My schedule is far too erratic to adhere to that recommendation. If you have a more predictable life, however, this recommendation might be one to try.
Another simple but worthwhile email suggestion is to write a meaningful subject line. I have often been guilty of lazy subject-line writing, with my favorites being “Touching Base,” “Checking In” and — laziest of all — “hi.” Now that I am a reformed email writer, I am writing more pointed subject lines such as “Can we meet this Friday at 10?” or “Need your input on Client X today.” I have found that I am getting better email responses as a result of better subject lines.
O'Hare's best suggestion of all, in my opinion, is to sometimes skip sending an email entirely and instead, have a face-to-face conversation or a phone conversation. Let's face it, we have all probably gotten ourselves in hot water at least once by firing off a thoughtlessly worded email or by creating a cycle of miscommunication by not writing with clarity. Having a verbal dialog can avert many of those issues, and it brings the added benefit of strengthening our relationships with others.
So, now that I have learned through proper management of emails to save time, be more creative, prioritize better and have better work/life balance, for my next challenge, I just might tackle organizing my three enormous file cabinets.
Chris Posti, president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh, is author of “The Shortest Distance between You and Your New Job,” available on Amazon.com. Email your questions to her at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers sign last of eight players drafted in 2015
- Steelers nose tackle McCullers finds performance, fitness go hand in hand
- Chesney fans flood the North Shore to party
- Hydraulic lift accident kills man in Wilkinsburg
- Former city police chief released from federal prison
- Pittsburgh roots shape former Md. governor’s outlook in run for president
- Padres snap Pirates’ 7-game win streak
- East Franklin family held at gunpoint in Arnold; no one hurt
- Steelers’ defense unfazed by noise, believes in potential
- Inmate assaults Westmoreland County sheriff’s deputy at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital
- Point Park graduate’s ‘mugshot’ photos hit nerve on racism