time management advice and how email auto responders can be a life saver...
On this page I will give you some time management advice on what I call a "temporal black hole": Checking and answering your email.
Time management advice email 1
SUBJECT: I Received Your Email
Dear Friends, Clients and Colleagues,
Due to high workload, I check email twice daily at 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM EST Monday-Thursday. I respond to urgent email at those times and endeavor to respond to all other email once a week, on Sundays at 6:00 AM EST.
If you require urgent assistance (please ensure that it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 9:00 AM or 2:00 PM, please contact me via phone at 555.666.4416.
Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better.Sincerely,
Time management advice email 2
Polite and Boss-Friendly:
SUBJECT: Please call if it can’t wait until 11am or 4pm
In an effort to increase productivity and efficiency I am beginning a new personal email policy. I’ve recently realized I spend more time shuffling through my inbox and less time focused on the task at hand.
It has become an unnecessary distraction that ultimately creates longer lead times on my ever growing ‘to do’ list. Going forward I will only be checking/responding to email at 11am and 4pm on weekdays. I will try and respond to email in a timely manner without neglecting the needs of our clients and brand identity.
If you need an immediate time-sensitive response… please don’t hesitate to call me. Phones are more fun anyways. Hopefully this new approach to email management will result in shorter lead times with more focused & creative work on my part. Cheers & here’s to life outside of my inbox!
All the best,
John “The Employee” Doe
Time management advice email 3
Short and Sweet:
SUBJECT: Off of E-Mail — Call if Urgent
Thank you for your email!
Due to my current workload, I am only checking email at 11am and 4pm. If you need anything immediately, please call me on my cell so that I can address this important matter with you.
Thank you and have a great day!
Time management advice email 4
Take No Prisoners:
Subject: I’m sorry but your e-mail has been deleted
Hi, it’s Simon Cowell.
I’m on a project until February 4 — your message has been deleted and will not be seen. Please re-send after the 4th. Or if something is urgent, please contact email@example.com.
All the best,
Time management advice email 5
Take No Prisoners with a Smile:
SUBJECT: I’ll be back August 14th…
Hey, it’s Jimmy here…
I’m traveling on vacation and will return on Tuesday, Aug. 14th.[website or Google calendar URL] < --- That's my schedule
All email I receive until that time will be automatically deleted, so if you have a dire emergency, contact my Executive Assistant, Jack-o-lantern at (555) 444-2525.
That way I'm not overwhelmed with playing "catch-up" and I can hit the ground running and give you the immediate attention you deserve when I get back.
Fair enough? I appreciate your courtesy in advance and look forward to our paths crossing again after Aug 14th.
All good wishes,
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Leo Babauta on time management advice, who writes about simplicity and productivity on his blog,
The power of less
I don’t know about you, but I get dozens — if not hundreds — of emails a day.
Unlike most people, however, I’m able to process through them, respond quickly, and get my inbox empty in 20 minutes (checking perhaps 2-3 times a day). In fact, I respond so quickly, and empty my inbox so quickly, that friends have called me an “email ninja”.
Let’s look at some simple time management advice strategies for being able to get your inbox to done in as little time as possible…
The first time-management advice of any email strategy is to stop any unnecessary email from getting into your inbox in the first place. When I said I get perhaps hundreds of emails a day, I deceived a bit — most of those emails never make it to the inbox. They go straight to the spam folder or the trash. You only want the essential emails in your inbox, or you’ll be overwhelmed.
- Junk. I recommend using Gmail, as it has the best spam filter possible. I get zero spam in my inbox. That’s a huge improvement over my previous accounts at Yahoo and Hotmail, where I’d have to tediously mark dozens of emails as spam.
- Notifications. I often get notifications from the many online services I use, from Amazon to WordPress to PayPal and many more. As soon as I notice those types of notifications filling up my inbox, I create a filter (or “rule” if you use Mail.app or Outlook) that will automatically put these into a folder and mark them as read, or trash them, as appropriate.
So for my PayPal notifications, I can always go and check on them in my “payments” folder if I like, but they never clutter my inbox.
- This would be my primary time management advice: Batch work. I get certain emails throughout the day that require quick action (like 10-15 seconds each). As I know these emails pretty well, I created filters that send them into a “batch” folder to be processed once a day. Takes a couple minutes to process the whole folder, and I don’t have to see them in my inbox.
- Stupid joke emails. If you have friends and family who send you chain emails and joke emails and the like, email them and let them know that you are trying to lessen the huge amount of email you have to deal with, and while you appreciate them thinking of you, you’d rather not receive those kinds of messages.
Some people will be hurt. They’ll get over it. Others will continue to send the emails. I create a filter for them that sends them straight in the trash. Basically, they’re on my killfile. If they ever send an important email (which is rare), they’ll call me eventually and ask why I haven’t responded. I tell them that their email must be in my spam folder.
- Publish policies. As most people who email me get my contact info from my website, I’ve created a set of policies published on my about page that are designed to pre-empt the most common emails. If people follow my policies, I will get very little email.
For example, instead of emailing me to ask for a link, they can save the link in my del.icio.us inbox … for suggestions or comments or questions, they can post them on a couple pages I created for that purpose. I’m also planning on creating an FAQ page for more common questions and issues. These policies remove the burden on me to respond to every request — I still read the comments and questions, but I only respond if I have time. Your inbox will be under a much lighter burden if you follow this time management advice.
- Processing the rest
So now that only the essential emails come into your inbox, the question is how to get it empty in 20 minutes? I should warn you that the “20 minutes” time frame is how long it takes me — your mileage may vary, depending on how practiced you are at the following methods, and how much email you get, and how focused you keep yourself. However, in any case, you should be able to get your inbox empty in a minimal amount of time using these methods.
I should also note: if you have a very full inbox (hundreds or thousands of messages), you should create a temporary folder (“to be filed”) and get to them later, processing them perhaps 30 minutes at a time until you’re done with that. Start with your inbox empty, and use the following techniques to keep it empty, in as little time as possible.
- Have an external to-do system. Many times the reason an email is lingering in our inbox is because there is an action required in order to process it.
Instead of leaving it in your inbox, and using the inbox as a de facto to-do list, make a note of the task required by the email in your to-do system … a notebook, an online to-do program, a planner, whatever. Get the task out of your inbox. Make a reference to the email if necessary. Then archive the email and be done with it.
This will get rid of a lot of email in your inbox very quickly. You still have to do the task, but at least it’s now on a legitimate to-do list and not keeping your inbox full.
- Process quickly. Work your way from top to bottom, one email at a time. Open each email and dispose of it immediately. Your choices: delete, archive (for later reference), reply quickly (and archive or delete the message), put on your to-do list (and archive or delete), do the task immediately (if it requires 2 minutes or less — then archive or delete), forward (and archive or delete).
Notice that for each option, the email is ultimately archived or deleted. Get them out of the inbox. Never leave them sitting there. And do this quickly, moving on to the next email. If you practice this enough, you can plow through a couple dozen messages very quickly.
- Be liberal with the delete key. Too often we feel like we need to reply to every email. But we don’t. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that will happen if I delete this?” If the answer isn’t too bad, just delete it and move on.
You can’t reply to everything. Just choose the most important ones, and reply to them. If you limit the emails you actually reply to or take action on, you get the most important stuff done in the least amount of time. Now that's time management advice in action.
- Short but powerful replies. So you’ve chosen the few emails you’re actually going to respond to … now don’t blow it by writing a novel-length response to each one. I limit myself to five sentences for each reply (at the maximum — many replies are even shorter).
That forces me to be concise, to choose only the essentials of what I want to say, and limits the time I spend replying to email. Keep them short, but powerful.
- Process to done. When you open your inbox, process it to 'done'. Don’t just look at an email and leave it sitting in your inbox. Get it out of there, and empty that inbox. Make it a rule: don’t leave the inbox with emails hanging around. Empty and clean. Ahhh!
Now that you've read all about time management advice, the last thing to say about this is.... JUST DO IT!
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