Christiaan Lam – over de dagelijkse avonturen van een mobiele manager
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Mastering your mailbox

DELCurrently I think it is valid to state that the primary worktool for a manager is his mailbox. Delegating orders, gathering information, making quick decisions, more and more of his communication is done by email. This is especially true when, like in my situation, most of your employees are working at office branches or client sites. Simple telephone calls are almost always redirected to voice mail boxes, so we start more and more to correspond through email. As stated in the one sentence manager, I think that this kind of communication is more and more abused, and nowadays most managers are collapsing under the digital weight of their mail. Therefore I’ll give you 7 weapons to conquer and master your mailbox.1. Thoroughly analyse your mailbox.
Christiaan talked about this topic earlier in Mail versus Mail (more or less the reason why I definately had to finish this post), but a thorough understanding of what’s going on in your mailbox is essential to sketch an acceptable battle plan. Analyse how many mails you receive, how many are addressed to you directly, what the purpose of these mails are, how many result in actions or decision, and how many receive a reply. Also look at how many mails you’re sending yourself, and how many people you give a CC for a common mail.
 
2. Use your inbox only to receive mail
Arrange your mails in different groups, for example based on the actions required (decision, action, urgent, reading, archiving) and archive them based on the type of work you do. Myself, I try to archive them based on the scope of the mail, so my employees, my group, my division, my company and my customers. I even have a seperate CC box for gathering all mails that aren’t send to me directly, so only when I have time to spare (meaning all other things are done) I’ll dive into my CC box and scan the messages there. Ofcourse the latter only works if most persons you’ll communicate with know how to cope with To, CC and BCC.
 
3. Keep your inbox clean
Are you also complete confused for 15 minutes if, after just a week of absence, your mailbox hands over more than 400 mails to you, and just keeps smiling at you? Goodbye vacation feeling, welcome to the real world! One of the most essential things to master your mailbox is keeping your inbox clean. You’ll will get the feeling of being organized as soon as you dealt with that last email in your inbox. Don’t handle them now… just analyse the purpose of the mail and put them in right action folder. Resist the temptation to reply, even if it’s just a simple action. And yes, the trash can is also an archive folder.
 
4. Love the rules engine
With over 80 mails per day even keeping your inbox clean is a hell of job, especially if you travel a lot. Most email programs have the possibility of automating repeating tasks. Learn the rule engine, learn it thoroughly and learn it now. If you look at what you are doing with most of your emails, you’ll see soon that most is just repeated work. Archiving and deleting mails solely at the top. Think for about a week specific to how you are handling your mails, what you do with it and think about the things that all those mails – which require the same handling – have in common. Rules truly can save your day if you see that more than 50 – 60% is handled without even touching the keyboard. Once in a while investigate your rules engine, so it keeps up to date.
 
Another tip is tagging your mail, like [URGENT], [GROUP XXX], etc. in the subject line. Almost everyone replies using the reply button, so your can specify your rule engine what to do when something with your tag ends up in your mailbox.
 
5. Use different email addresses
Organise your mail using different email addresses and use different mailboxes or filter them by the use of the rules engine. Keep (at least) your private mail seperated from your business mail. Even for my business mail I like to use more or less the same principle, with different Sent By names that I can use to track the emails or filter replies. Especially keep your business email addresses of every possible list or website you come by. Use for these purposes another email (mailbox) as to avoid spam and other unsollicited emails.

6. Get off every list as soon as possible
Email addresses get abused. Sorry. You have to deal with it. If you do not pay specific attention not to register your email address anywhere, your name ends up on all sorts of lists and a flow of email starts to get in. And now the tricky part. You have to figure out which email are coming from a non-spamming source and which aren’t. Mostly the mails which keep coming from the same source, are safe to abandon. Get off the list. Unregister now! If you want to know of the things they are doing then register via the RSS-feed. Keep them out of your mailbox. Don’t touch mails from other sources, don’t spam the spammer, don’t do anything with it other than dragging it to the trashcan. It will only validate your email address, ending you up with more and more emails.
 
7. 3 M’s: Mobile Mailbox Management
If you, like myself, spend a lot of time traveling (or just staring ahead in traffic jam figuring out the purpose of life), master the 3 M’s: mobile mailbox management. Get a smartphone or blackberry now! Immediatly! You can save so much time by just scanning your mailbox, deleting the unnecessary mails, giving simple replies (yes, we should truly adopt one sentence management) and thereby filtering out many mails which you don’t have to look at later. If your company allows it, use the more advanced features of mobile management, like sending thru specific kinds of emails with alert status, using templates for quick reactions and changing state of mails, thereby making automatic handling by the rules engine even more suitable.
 
Go out and fight! Share your experiences and best practices with others; mail can be managed. If anyone would like to add best practices, please don’t send them by mail :-)

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