Email has it's advantages. It is a fast way to communicate. Writing a good clear email message is something you will have to learn. Pushing the send button to quick can lead to embarrassing situations.
But don't get stuck to much to email. Sometimes it is better to talk to someone about something. Not all topics lend themselves for email. Besides the number of emails in your inbox can be overwhelming. It can ruin your life. So use email right and appropriate.
An important reason email is plaguing so much of your time is the amount of unnecessary or badly written email being sent.
From the book: Upgrade Your Life some suggestions for proper email writing:
- Write descriptive subject lines. Descriptive subject lines are essential to being able to process email quickly. It saves time from having to open each email just to figure out what it’s about, you can’t prioritize their responses as efficiently. E.g. subject:IMPORTANT isn't very descriptive but Subject: Questions about Monday's presentation is.
- Don't write long emails. If your message is longer than one page trim it down. Only when explaining complicated concepts or providing detailed instructions make it longer than one page if absolutely necessary
- Make it easy to read by using line breaks and bullet points. Reading from a computer monitor is more tiring than from paper.
- Don't CC if it is not necessary. Only do it when the recipient has to act on something don't do it just to keep him informed. While there are sometimes cases where this is a good idea, for the most part you shouldn’t send someone an email unless you want them to take action on it. If you do CC make it clear why everybody received the message.
- Reply all is not always necessary. Use it only for a good reason.
More on email etiquette see also lifehacker.org
Coping with email overload can be a challenge. I am a fan of the method described in Getting Things Done. But there are some tools available to read and send emails. There are filtering and processing methods and software tweaks that make email less stressful and time-consuming. Some email productivity tips:
- Filter the emails that are not directly addressed to you. You can use filters in outlook and thunderbird. You can differentiate between need-to-see-it direct mail and emails not directly for you but mostly the ones "to keep you informed".
- Use Gmail, you can keep your messages and use the Gmail's search functionality. You can even set up persistent searches, and you won't have to spend time again digging through scads of messages to find the right one.
- Use gmail for all your email accounts. You can import mail from nearly any account into a common Gmail. You can even send and reply to mail from those same addresses.
- Process and organize your email with a system. There are a lot of systems for organizing email, getting things done is one of them. Based on this is the trusted trio system at lifehacker. Or the Zero Email Bounce for Outlook.
More on email productivity on Lifehacker