Six Tips For Dealing With Email Overload

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Most, if not all, small business owners are barraged by the large number of emails they receive on a daily basis. As a consequence, way too much time is spent on email that actually slows down productivity.

Email has become a ‘disruptive’ technology that could take you on a tangent and eat up your time fast. So, it is important to take charge of your inbox and filter unwanted emails. Here are some ways you could do that:

Prioritize incoming emails
As a rule, not every email you receive requires immediate attention. Filtering out the most important messages allows you to prioritize the emails you should answer and saves you valuable time.

Most email software have a few good filters that make this possible.

Set specific times to respond to your emails
Giving in to the temptation of checking and responding to your emails is actually an issue of inefficiently dealing with emails rather than the abundance of emails.

Instead of continuously checking your email from multiple devices, set specific times throughout the day to check your email and refrain from checking email outside these times. It is actually more efficient to respond to your emails in bulk rather in piecemeal.

Use the search function
Organizing your emails in folders are important; however, if you are searching for an old email, use the search function, the advanced search operators, and filters to quickly find what you are looking for.

Unsubscribe from unwanted lists
To eliminate the many emails that are not spam but which are still cluttering your inbox, take some time and unsubscribe from newsletters or services which you no longer read or use. Look into using a mass unsubscribe tool if you don’t want to unsubscribe from each list.

Smartphone in hand musicUse filters
Most email systems allow filtering, which you can assign to any type of email that you get regularly. For instance, a filter makes it possible to forward emails which contain particular keywords to your assistant or have a particular automated response to certain emails. This significantly reduces the amount of time you spend on email.

Turn off notifications from social media sites
You really don’t need to get an email each time someone responds to your Facebook comment or tweet. Since you’ll eventually see such updates once you actually visit those sites, they shouldn’t be allowed to clutter your inbox. In fact, such notifications are just distractions that could cut on your productivity.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Should Your Company Be Archiving Your E-Mail?

For companies under the jurisdiction of HIPAA, SEC, SOX, or any of the other alphabet soup regulations, email is considered “work product” and must be retained and protected from misuse or theft.

Even if you’re not under the government’s microscope via one of these regulations, you should still be concerned about e-mail archiving.

E-mail archiving is now mandatory
FRCP – The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are a set of recently revised rules for managing civil suits in all US District courts and in thirty-five state courts that require you to archive your e-mail (with no exceptions for company size, organizational structure or nonprofit status).

The rules are specific, non-negotiable, and apply to e-mail generated and received by the business, its customers and vendors.

If you sue or get sued in civil court, you may win or lose your case based on compliance with the procedures regarding e-mail archiving.

HIPPA – Safeguarding the privacy and security of patient information is not limited to clinics and healthcare providers anymore.

Any organization that sends, receives or stores paper and electronic personal health information (PHI) must comply with this legislation. A recent survey revealed that compliance failure is around 50%.

SOX – The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 states that all public companies and their accounting firms must sercurely retain all business records, including electronic records and messages, for not less than five years. Failure results in fines and imprisonment.

E-mail archiving keeps you up and running
Just a few years ago, the average size of a user’s mail box was 10MB. Today the average size is 50x larger (500MB)! This causes many servers in small businesses to overload, slowing down speed and performance dramatically. While a third of this bloat are messages that should be deleted, the rest need to be retained, searchable and available on demand. Most mail server software has built-in features that move “old” e-mail off the server, but doesn’t allow for easy access to the information.

You can also buy bigger server hard drives every year to prevent a bog-down, but this can be cost prohibitive. More often than not, email archiving is the most effective and economical choice for retaining messages and staying compliant with regulations.