E-mail Management: What You Need
to Know Today
BY CHRIS BONNEY
According to the independent market
research firm The Radicati Group, association professionals spend nearly 30 percent
of their workday managing e-mails. That
number is expected to grow to more than
40 percent by 2009. Executive directors
send and receive approximately 133 e-mails
a day, with that number anticipated to rise
to 166 within the year. Surprised? Probably
not. Most of us are no strangers to e-mail
overload. What is surprising, though, is
fewer than 10 percent of organizations provide e-mail training to their staff, leaving
individuals to devise their own methods of
inbox management. This not only poses
long-term productivity issues for many
organizations, but also leaves the future of
e-mail management up for grabs.
With new channels of communication like
blogs, wikis and RSS vying for your members’ attention, how your organization
throttles its e-mail usage during the next
few years could determine whether you
sink or swim in the deepening seas of
information delivery. Cohesive Knowledge,
an e-mail usage consulting firm, reports
each year more than $308 billion is
wasted managing low-value or irrelevant
e-mail. Clearly, the controlled chaos
method of e-mail management currently
employed by most people is not working.
So, what about our inboxes is so difficult
to rein in? There are many culprits, some
more familiar than others. Spam, inbox
enemy No. 1, continues to proliferate.
Some studies estimate that spam, unsolicited bulk e-mail, accounted for more
than 90 percent of all e-mail sent in
November and December 2007. And with
spammers’ ability to perpetually outwit
filters, that number is not expected to
decrease in the future.
Worse yet, we’ve become passive spammers ourselves. The e-mails we send our
“friends” asking them to sign up for the
hottest new social media site and “
colleague spam,” which happens when we
blanket a group of unsuspecting associates’
inboxes with a simple click of the “reply to
all” button, are ways we are inadvertently
contributing to the inbox quandary.
Return Path, a leading technology
research firm, has estimated that Internet
Service Providers mark more than 25 percent of legitimate e-mail as spam in their
attempt to thwart the enemy. This means
a large percentage of e-mails that are part
of everyday business are landing in junk
folders right next to the most flagrant
pushers of mail-order drugs. Not a prescription for success.
There is a silver lining, though. Some
organizations, like the Chicago Association
of REALTORS, have seemingly tamed the
spam beast. They’ve done it by being conscientious of how and where they use their
personal e-mail addresses and by employing top-notch technology. “Spam is not a
culprit for us at all,” says Warren Frank,
CPA, chief operations and financial officer
of the organization. “What little makes it
through our filters is easily deleted.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
In search of a quick fix for the burden of e-mail, some professionals have resorted to
“e-mail bankruptcy,” deleting their entire
inbox hoping to find salvation by starting
over. For-profit companies like U.S. Cellular have even tried e-mail-free Fridays
with mixed results. Edward Salek, CAE,
executive director of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers,
acknowledges the significance of e-mail to
his organization and the challenges
within: “We consider e-mail a business
tool and it’s very valuable in our international communications, but e-mail is
inherently such an informal communication tool that we sometimes have difficulty determining what is best for e-mail
and what is best for in-person meetings.”
Here are a few quick tips on how to
manage your inbox and make sure you are
not an e-mail nuisance to someone else:
1.Quality Subject Lines: Be sure to have
one and make it succinct and relevant.
2.Avoid “Reply to All:” Ensure your e-mail
replies are pertinent to all recipients.
3.Ditch the Emoticons: Keep your messages professional and on topic. Avoid
using smiley faces and keep commentary to a minimum.
4.Re adable Formatting: Try using bullets
and numbering when applicable. Keep
large blocks of text to a minimum.
Some even suggest that an e-mail reply
should be no more than five sentences.
5.Co nsider Your Electronic Legacy: Every
e-mail you send is archived somewhere.
Think about what you’re saying and how
it could affect your personal brand and
6.Ma ke a Date With Yourself: Schedule a
meeting with yourself each week to
attend to your inbox. Avoid an ad hoc
approach to e-mail management.
While software companies like Seriosity,
ClearContext and Xobni, and handheld
devices like Blackberry and Treo, guide us
into the future of electronic messaging,
there is still one non-digital wild card that
always will play a factor in effective communication: the human touch. Frank sums it
up nicely: “We are always trying to encourage our staff to address important issues in
person. As great as e-mail is for some
things, there are circumstances where
meeting face-to-face is the only answer.”
Chris Bonney is the vice president of client services
at Vanguard Technology ( www.vtcus.com). He may
be reached at email@example.com.