Email is killing us all. At our desks. Following us. 24/7. To survive, I try to manage myself and my e-mail with this approach:

  • watch the clock
  • use folders
  • automatically keep copies of sent e-mail in correct folder
  • when typing is talking . . . talk

Each of us needs to improve our use of the software on our desktops.  Better uses of it will improve our process – returning to us some time to actually think and effectively work. The main culprit or point of pain for many of us is email.  Email is killing us:

  • too much of it
  • wrong uses of it (example: people use it in “conversational” style, forcing us to waste time simply trying to understand it)
  • it is distracting (example: pulling us away from important tasks, and chopping up our time into inefficient pieces)
  • thought leaders sum it up: email is dead
  • it is our shared experience

Each of us learns to cope with email.  Email shapes our process, and often our attitude about our work. With our companies spending more and more on technology, and less and less on training us to use it, the “help desk” on using e-mail now is  a community effort: it takes place in our work groups and with others around our work stations – guerrilla style warfare.

  • we need email survival training
  • we need to share our favorite tips with each other

[Training & Sharing: In the mid-’60s, my Father went through a jungle training course in the Philippines on his way to what he still calls “Southeast Asia.”  (One survival school trick not offered up by the instructor: when the local kid finds you in the field [and they did], give the kid a battery from your flash light, and the kid won’t tell the instructor that he found you.)  He never refers to the Vietnam War, probably because  his helicopter unit abruptly left its in-country base when it “fell off the map” (it was over run).   The balance of his “tour” was based in Thailand – but after his unit officially  “disbanded” – giving him the opportunity to “covertly” visit neighboring countries (and the other one up “up north”), with added off-the-record benefits of wearing whatever clothes he wanted (but never a dog tag) for an extra $1,000 a month.  Sometimes is was “hot.”  Although he was trained going in, the most valuable lessons came from within the unit and from their very experienced passengers.]

  • is email changing you? slowing you down?
  • would your day improve if you improved your use of email?
  • what would you trade to become better at using email?  (30 minutes next Saturday, as you look for more tips on the internet?)

Here are a few email tips:

  • Watch the clock (not the email folder): only look at your e-mail for 5 minutes at the beginning of each hour
  • Email options: set up your email to automatically “save” a copy of each sent email in the folder from which the email is generated
  • Use folders
    • Create a folder system
    • After you read an email, then:
      • delete it, or
      • move it to your “Action needed” folder (if appropriate), or
      • move it to the deal or other folder
    • IMPORTANT: if you need to “reply” to an email, FIRST move the e-mail to the appropriate folder; and then send the “reply” e-mail (from that folder).  If you use my “email options” tips (above), then a copy of your reply email will automatically be saved in this folder.  No more lost time in dragging your email replies from your inbox (or from sent folder) into the appropriate folder.
  • Talk, Don’t Type:  if your use of email starts to look like a conversation, STOP the email exchange and call the person.
  • Other tips: search the internet for other e-mail tips.  BE AGGRESSIVE in becoming better at improving your use of e-mail.
Confession: I need to be better at all of this.
This fall, I’ll be speaking on technology topics at three different legal conferences (ACMA annual meeting; UT Law Mortgage Lending Institute; Texas State Bar Advanced Real Estate Strategies Course)  Portions of each presentation will focus on tips like these.  I’ll be sharing some of the tips here, too.
(If you’ll attend any of these conferences, let’s get together at the conference.)
If you have other email tips to share, please do so below.