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May 31Doug Smith

Staying on Top of E-Mail, Part Deux

May 31Doug Smith

In my last blog post, I spoke of how I’ve taken one work day a month, which I call my Integration Day, and use it to catch up on my e-mail. In the last few companies where I’ve worked, e-mail is as important a communication and task assignment method as meetings are, and much more important than voice mail; I needed to stay up with the volume. I also talked about how monthly I clear out and dispose of many (probably 80%) of the emails that don’t require action or thought from me.

After my initial review process, what’s left are e-mails that fall into three categories: (1) questions I need to give some thought to, (2) stuff people have asked me to do, and (3) stuff I’ve asked other people to do. A note on this last category. In the old days, I used to have to search through my Sent e-mails to track down assignments I’d given to others. Unfortunately, it was a little like looking for a needle in a haystack since it was mixed in with other messages, replies, calendar acceptances, etc. So in the last few years, if I give someone an assignment by e-mail, I send a blind copy (bcc:) to myself so I’ll have it in my Inbox for easy review.

At the end of my initial monthly review, I’ll have maybe 20-25 e-mails that require more focused attention. I still have 4-5 hours left in my Integration Day, and I have enough time to give them the thought and direction needed. Keeping to this monthly process (I put a whole year’s worth of monthly Integration Days on the calendar each January so I know I’ll have the time set aside) has allowed me to manage the many moving parts of a business much more effectively, with fewer items dropping through the cracks.

In my final blog post on this topic, I’ll mention one potential problem and how I solved it.

 

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