Electronic mail, or email, has been touted as the greatest personal and business productivity enhancer, which is true. But to some, email has become a tremendous burden and a waste of time. Read on and I’ll show you what you can do about it.
Part 1 of a 2-part series on how you can begin to tame the email monster.

If you are at, or near the top of your organization or business unit, everyone wants some of your time. They want you to know they’re doing the job you’re paying them for – and doing it well. So they send you email. Make you feel important, does it?

Well, you’re welcome to take some (or most) of mine, because some days, I receive up to 100 ‘important’ emails, not counting junk.  They could take hours just to read, and even more time to respond.  I’ll bet many of you are also up to your eyeballs in email, because for whatever reasons, others feel you need to be kept “in the loop”.      

Ya’ really want to know why?  Because email is virtually free! 

If e-mails, like ‘snail-mail’ (a ‘techie’ term for stuff sent through the postal service) cost 37 cents for each stamp, and required typing the letter, typing and licking an envelope, folks would be more mindful of sending them – believe me.  We’d really re-think how important it is for us to send emails to Bill, Bob, Jack, John, Debbie and Karen.  But because of computers, we can ‘cut and paste’, or just ‘CC, and with a few clicks on the computer, let our bosses, colleagues, buddies, parents, and the rest of the folks in our address books, in on our latest success, news (good or bad), or discovery, and so we e-mail away.  Why I know one executive who has email sent to his company’s mail server, his home computer and his mobile device.  Now he has to delete the same email (he probably didn’t need or read) three times!

If you’d like to do something about your email here are some ideas to help with the burden. 

It would be interesting for a business to set up a cost accounting system that would bill each individual, department or division, oh, let’s say, 50 cents for sending an email.  Now, that’s for each email address in the ‘SEND TO:’,  ‘CC:’, or ‘BCC:’, boxes.  That would get peoples’ attention!    I’m guessing that this would bring chaos to most organizations, especially if they thrive on email as a significant communication method.  I can’t think of very many that don’t.  

But I do remember a TV advertisement a few years back for a well-known software application where an older worker would not answer email messages unless he could first print them out to read them.  He’d say, “No – I want paper”, when his assistant would try and show him how to read email on his computer monitor.  What a guy!!  And I’ll bet that, to the happiness of laser and inkjet cartridge manufacturers everywhere, once he printed them out, he probably tossed most of them, if not all, in the ‘circular’ file (that’s the trash can for those of you more youthful than I). 

Why not track how many minutes each day you spend reading and replying to emails?  Be really critical and accurate – it’s important.  If you now divide your annual compensation, the total of both your salary and the cost of your benefits – usually 15-25% of your wages – by 120,000, this is what your employer pays you per minute (example: $60,000 per year/120,000 = $.50 per minute).  Now, multiply the number of daily minutes you spend with email, times your per minute pay rate, and ask yourself if that is a number you’d be proud to list as a line item in your next budget.

But even if you don’t actually do any of this, just thinking about it, and influencing others to think about it will have a profound effect on what may be an email crisis in your company or your personal life.

In my next installment, I’ll show you even more tips on saving time with email.