If, like me, you spend most of your working days in a modern office room, chances are you deal with e-mail on a daily basis… or rather, you deal with a ton of e-mail on a daily basis. A couple of years ago I read in a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article that “at least 15 percent of a typical office worker’s day is spent on e-mail” while Mashable puts the figure at 28 percent.

Now, nobody is saying that emails are productivity-impairing distractions… but surely spending more than two hours to deal with the daily flood of emails is a bit much, no? So, why don’t we take a look at how we can better manage your inbox…

Naturally, the first step is getting your inbox organized. In other words: filters. Having any incoming emails neatly sorted into appropriate folders makes it easier for you to quickly see which ones need your immediate attention and which ones can be put off until later. How do you do that? Well, here are the official guides for Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird (which I personally prefer), Gmail, and Yahoo! Mail.

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But the problem with emails is not only the daily volume that inundates our accounts, but also the length of each message. That’s why making a habit out of writing short, concise emails can make a real difference. (This ‘difference’ will only matter if most people write short, concise emails… but there’s no harm in starting with ourselves, no?)

What is perhaps the most crucial key to keeping your messages short and to the point is getting rid of all the unnecessary chit-chat that people will ignore anyway. For example:

Hi Linda, just wanted to email you to tell you about something that might interest you. (Do we really need to tell people that we’re going to tell them something? Openings like these really need to go.) I’ve looked over some of your previous projects and I really think we can do some great business together. (Flattery is easily lost to people who might be just as busy as you.) My company is based in Jakarta and we’re a subsidiary of [big multinational company]. (This doesn't really matter at this point.) So, currently we are working on [name of project] (Ah, finally!) and we’re confident that we’ll be much more successful than [rival company]. (Oh, really?) I’m really hoping that we could set up an appointment to discuss this partnership opportunity. (Why didn’t you say so from the start?)

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So, remember:  The people you send emails to are likely just as busy as you are, so keep it short and to the point, and you might actually get your message across.

And last but not least, use the Reply All button wisely. First of all, what usually happens is that for every mass email, about a dozen people will click Reply All, write “Understood”, or “Noted”, or “Sounds good”, then send it to everybody. Do you really need a dozen extra emails that tell you nothing new? Besides, there are plenty of cases of people inadvertently clicking Reply All when they actually meant to reply only to the original sender with a message that, let’s just say, breaks at least several rules regarding “offensive language”.

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That’s why some companies, such as Nielsen, have taken the Reply All button out of their corporate email clients.

Sounds like a good decision to me… ^^

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