How do you survive email overload?

Tuesdays are my team building day for my blog and, in my mind, email can have a major impact on our ministry teams – for good or bad. Here are some of my concerns and suggestions for managing them for good!

Sending other team members unnecessary copies of emails. It’s tempting to “cc” everyone who might need this information…especially your supervisor. But the ease at which this can be done does not validate the doing! Suggestion: Consider whether you would bother picking up the phone or walking down the hall to share this information with your co-worker. If not, then stop before you hit “send!”

Losing track of important emails. I enjoy using MS Outlook to process emails and, especially, the part of this tool that many do not realize is present. Suggestion: When an email arrives that requires a substantive answer and you don’t have time to answer it, “flag” the email with a date on which you will process it. Outlook will automatically place a “flag” on the email itself (letting you know you can overlook it for now) and an entry in your task list on the assigned date (so you won’t forget it later).

Correcting, expressing frustration, or reprimanding electronically. Don’t do it – ever. The written word stings much more deeply and sensitive team members will have your words in front of them to read and re-read. Plus, your tone of voice cannot be “heard” via email. Suggestion: When you need to correct or confront, always do so personally. Face to face is best, but if this is not possible, pick up the phone. The personal touch allows you to work through the issue, understand each other’s body language (or at least tone of voice), and come out the other side still wanting to be on the same team. Plus this step slows you down long enough to think through what should be said without reacting out of frustration or anger.

Finding key information later. It’s not uncommon to need to refer back to something that was said earlier. Suggestion: Whether you use Outlook or some other tool, make sure yours saves old emails so you can do a search for key words. Don’t waste time “over filing” your emails; instead rely upon your search tool to find a needed email in your “deleted” or “sent” folders.

Getting behind on emails. They come in quickly, don’t they? How do we keep up with them? Suggestion: Don’t allow your incoming emails to distract you from your work, or this is all you will get done in a day. Try setting touch points hourly or twice daily or whatever works best for you so you can focus on other tasks. But when you do read your email, touch it once! If it’s an ad and you aren’t interested, delete it now (permanently). If it requires a quick answer, do it now and delete it. If it will take too much time, flag it for a later time when you will be able to process it thoughtfully.

What are your email survival tricks? I’d love to hear them.

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