SUPERCOMPETENT Hero Thinking:
My e-mail is organized, and my inbox is regularly emptied.
SIMPLY COMPETENT Zero Thinking:
I have 20,000 messages in my inbox; it's just a giant filing cabinet.
My first (real) corporate job was with TRW Defense Systems in Colorado Springs, CO. I can still remember my co-workers "oooohhhing" and "ahhhhhing" over the brand-new fax machine in the department. (Remember those grease-paper rolls?) Even then, I can recall thinking, "This can't be a good idea." When we put documents in the regular mail, the turnaround time was at least a week. Then the fax machine came along . . . and our customers got used to instant gratification. Then came voicemail, then the cell phone, the pager, and then everything hit the fan when e-mail exploded on the scene.
How many hours do you spend wading around in your e-mail inbox each day? E-mail isn't a toy—it's a tool—a means of making yourself more productive. If you let yourself be chained down by your e-mail instead of letting it help set you free, you're never likely to get much done. Here are my top 10 best practices to take advantage of your e-mail without letting it take advantage of you.
As a Microsoft Certified Application Specialist in Outlook, I will give the instructions in Outlook 2007. If you're using Outlook 2003 or a different e-mail platform such as Lotus or GroupWise, the principle remains the same, but the commands may vary slightly.