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Set aside special breaks between bigger projects to handle email. Don’t let email interruptions projects, and don ‘t let he computer dictate your priorities. Turn off your email program’s ‘Biff’ feature (the annoying bell or screen flash that notifies you every time an email message arrives). If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, go to Tools > Options > Preferences > E-mail Options and unchecked “Display a notification message when new mail arrives. ” Don’t use “reply to all” when responding to email.

Abide by the good old “need to know” principle that’s so beloved by the military and send follow-up messages only to those people who will actually benefit from the reply. Write informative subject lines for your email messages. Assume that the recipient is too busy to open messages with lame titles like “hi. ” Create a special email address for personal messages and newsletters. Only check this account once per day. (If you’re sleekly enough to master filtering, use filters to sort and prioritize your email. Unfortunately, this is currently too difficult for average users. Write short. J. K. Roiling is not a good role model for email writers. Avoid IM (instant messaging) unless real-time interaction will truly add value to the communication. A one-minute interruption of your colleagues will cost them ten minutes of productivity as hey reestablish their mental context and get back into “flow. ” Only the most important messages are worth 1,000 percent in overhead costs. What Companies Can Do At the corporate level, we need to implement four more steps: Answer common customer questions on your website using clear and concise language.

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This will save your customers a lot of time thus making you popular and will keep them from pestering you with time-consuming phone calls and emails. User test your intranet. Clean it up so that employees can find stuff faster, and make the intranet homepage their entry point for keeping up on company news and events. Don it circulate internal email to all employees; instead put the information on the intranet where people can find it when they need it. This obviously assumes that you’ve fixed the intranets usability. ) Establish a company culture in which it’s okay not to respond to email immediately. This frees employees from the pressure of incessantly checking email and lets them get more work done. As individuals and as organizations, we can all do our share both to cope with the existing information pollution and emit fewer new pollutants. Ignoring this problem will only make it worse every year. If we act now, we can get it under control.

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