8 email productivity practices

Putnam Investments , 5/5/2014


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Was your New Year’s Resolution to be at “Inbox Zero” at the end of each day? How’s that working out for you?

Try these practices to increase your email productivity:

  1. Send all cc:’s to their own folder. If you’re not important enough to be the primary recipient of an email, chances are reading it can wait. Send these to a folder called “CC” and bulk process them twice a week.
  2. Bring back the art of filing. Remember filing, with manila folders and labels? If you never filed anything, your desk would be piled high with paper. The same is true for your Inbox: If you don’t file messages, you’ll never know where they are. File and archive regularly.
  3. Forward, delegate, and move on. Not every email request needs to be accomplished by you. Forward tasks to coworkers or assistants, write a few words about how you’d like the task accomplished, file or archive the original email, and move on with your day.
  4. Defer. Create folders with specific action dates, like “Week of July 14” or “End of Q3,” and move emails that require your action on those dates to these folders.
  5. Master the short reply. If you know someone well enough, don’t be afraid to reply with as few words as possible. The average person gets over 100 emails daily. Those you work closely with will appreciate a brief response.
  6. Thanks, but no thanks. The “Thanks” email adds to inbox clutter. Break yourself of this habit, and others may follow. At the very least, make “thank you” your subject line so the recipient knows no further action is required.
  7. Edit the subject line. If you are responding in a thread and the subject has changed, or if you want your response to get noticed, change the subject line of the email to reflect what you’re talking about.
  8. Email is your to-do list, not everyone else’s. Would you let others add to your to-do list? Keep your Inbox free of requests and others’ priorities. Focus on your work.
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