January 09, 2005, 6:03 PM — During the holidays, I took some time-off to spend with my family. However, I could not stop thinking about all of the e-mail that I still had to drudge through, as well as all of the e-mail that was probably coming in while I was away. When I got back in the office after only 5 days of vacation, I had over 300 e-mails. As I began to cycle through the e-mails, I noticed a recurring trend - many of the e-mails that I received were either informational, or I had just been copied in on a conversation that had diverged 20 e-mails earlier. There was no reason for me to be on this e-mail any longer, but I had over 20 e-mails relating to something that I had no input into, or actions required.
I decided it was time to begin writing a few columns on more effective uses of e-mail. I had been doing some research in this area for some time, but had not put everything together until now.
One of my sources of information was the "YourTime Email Effectiveness Program" that was developed at Intel for this very same problem. The "YourTime" program has been made publicly available here. Additionally, I reviewed some research performed by the CIO.com that was published in a survival guide titled, "E-mail Management: Taming the Beast".
In next week's article, I will begin to show you some best practices around sending e-mail, replying to e-mail, and filtering e-mail when it comes into your inbox, and other management aspects. For example, when you send a message to someone that requires an action, make it clear in the second sentence of the e-mail that they have an action to complete. You should also include a due date so that they know when to get back with you. Additionally, if an action is required, you should utilize "AR - < subject>" or "ACTION REQUIRED - < subject>" in the subject of the message.
Over the next few weeks, I will delve into the key findings of this research in hopes of enlightening all of you on more effective and efficient e-mail practices.