05/10/10

By Claire West

With the Christmas holidays looming November’s business email frenzy becomes virtually unmanageable for many. Jon Baker of venture-Now has been studying and improving people’s performance for around 25 years. He has seen the rising impact of huge email volumes, take respectable business people to breaking point. This is often caused by common fundamental flaws and so he gave five tips to help those struggling with their inbox.

“Regardless of if you are in a blue chip or a small family business, most complain about the same thing — they can no longer stay on top of their emails. Now this form of communication has become a 24-hour mobile phenomena, adopting a work ethic which avoids confusion and distraction requires a behavioural shift.

“Many people use their inbox as a task list. This is a core weakness as it causes them to feel overloaded earlier and leads to missing or losing important messages and actions,” he commented.

Jon’s first instruction is to separate your inbox and task list to avoid confusion. Secondly, change your mindset — think of emails as backups rather than tasks.

If an email contains a necessary action, add it to your task list and close the message. Get yourself into a routine where your task list tells you what to do rather than your inbox. If something is not important enough to have a deadline, file it in an ‘action’ file and leave it off your task list.

Delete emails after responding. If you need to keep a copy, file it beneath a client or project name.

Finally, use your automated filters as much as possible. The less time you spend manually filtering messages, the more time you release for profit-related activities.

“These simple tips can make an enormous difference to profitability en mass or for one-man bands. If you can reduce the time spent battling with the crossover between email messages and task lists by as little as thirty minutes a day, you immediately release more than three weeks per annum,” concluded Jon.