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7 tips of handling your Emails without feeling overwhelmed

7 tips of handling your Emails without feeling overwhelmed

Our lifehack.org reader, Roman Rytov asks an interesting question on email management. Roman starts with an example from David Lorentzo where David has gone to the extreme and plans to delete all of the cc’ed emails in his inbox:

Hi folks,

Wonder what your opinion on the matter is.

David Lorentzo suggests getting rid of a Blackberry and delete immediately emails where he’s simply CC-ed as means of taming the email monster. I feel it’s too drastic and impractical and contemplate on possible solutions on the existing problem of email overload

How do you manage your hundreds of emails? Would you mind to comment or post your own recipe of success?

Thanks,

Roman Rytov

I think because we are in 21st century, it is normal that everyone has hundreds of emails daily – and I am not an exception. The amount of emails mean that people are moving their communication channels to email. Once in a while I feel overwhelmed with emails, but most of the time my inbox is manageable. I do not feel the technology of email gives us trouble – it is a very productive tools if you (and other people) use it correctly.

Emails that are cc’ed to you are similar to other emails, and I consider those are not as important as the ones sending to you directly. In here, I will put cc’ed emails into factors and introduce seven tips that I setup and use daily to overcome the flood to my inbox:

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  • Use filtering and use it extensively. I filter everything except emails which are sent to me directly. Yes, filter all of your organization memos; filter all your mailing list emails; filter all your emails which are cc’ed to you. This way they cannot clutter your Inbox and you can choose to not read them. In regards to the email server setup: The organization that I work for uses a IMAP server with a server-side filtering system – after I setup the filters, everything will be in folders already, no matter which email client I use.
  • Filter specific sender out from the inbox. Have you identified someone who like to send/forward you emails regardless if the material is relevant to you or not? Blacklist them by filter them out into a special folder. You don’t want to read them immediately.
  • Schedule fixed time to review the folders. Ask yourself a question – if you are not reading the email in X hours, can you still perform your work? If you can, then schedule your email folders review in max X hours. Especially with cc’ed and memos, you are being informed, and you are not obligated to reply the sender. Pace your time and get informed with the emails only if you have a chance.
  • Read emails as a thread. An universal rules: If an email has more to: and cc: recipients, it attracts more replies. When you view them as a thread, you can get the information and conversation at once.
  • Don’t answer every emails, especially if you’re cc’ed. I think reading email does not require a lot of time – the time usually being used when I need to reply the email. I need to think, I need to write, I need to review. So don’t reply except you really need to. If you are cc’ed, by the logic you are only being informed.
  • If you cannot reply the email immediately, move it to a @Reply folder. After you read an email, you need to reply the sender but you cannot do it right now – why not flag it by moving to a different folder. At that point of time, you already filtered the email in your mind. If you do not act on it by moving it into a different folder (such as @Reply), you need to come back and differentiate what you need to reply with other emails – you will spend double of the time on mind-filtering it again.
  • If you cannot read the email immediately, move it to @Read folder. Similar reason as the previous tip, if you read briefly and you’ve declared an email as a “read-later” type of email. Don’t mind-filter it again, do a manual filtering by moving it into a @Read folder, and then schedule a reading time on that folder and read it all at once.

I hope these tips from my still-improving email system can help you in some ways. Of course some tips may suitable to you – some may not. But if you have something that works for you already, please comment here to help others!

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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