Resolution #2 – I will manage my email better.

Yes, week 2 of resolutions.  Many may have already given up on their resolutions, but ours are still intact and we hope yours are too.  We covered resolutions to help you use your technology more productively in your business last week and this week, we are taking on a topic that seems to plague everyone in one way or another – email.

My email is overwhelming.

I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t made this statement at least once, or sometimes even once per hour!  The original intent of email when it launched in its earliest version the mid 1960’s was a way for multiple users of a single mainframe computer to communicate with each other within one organization.  Today’s email has certainly evolved into much more than that and if we let it, it can easily overtake our entire day every day!  We’ve talked about time-saving Outlook productivity tips in earlier posts, but now it’s time to talk about your email strategy. 

Yes, now even email needs a defined strategy to keep it manageable.

To begin the process of you managing your email instead of your email managing you, first identify your biggest problem areas.  Some common email issues include:

  1. Messages aren’t organized.
  2. Spending too much time on email.
  3. Not being able to access the information you need when you are on-the-go.
  4. Your email, calendar and contacts don’t work together.
  5. You can’t share your calendar with colleagues.
  6. There is no technical support when you run into questions or problems.
  7. There are too many messages.
  8. You’ve experienced too many issues or one outage too many with your current mail provider (refer to the ongoing Hotmail issues last week).

If you have more than 3 things listed as your biggest problem areas, prioritize the list from most impactful to least impactful so you can maximize your early results.

Create Your Email Strategy

Now that you’ve identified your own biggest email struggles, create a plan that will work for you.  For example:

  • If your messages aren’t organized, schedule some time to outline the types of email you receive and how best to organize it.  Then, create file folders for your messages (just like you would create file folders for your paper files).  Depending on your business, some of your main folders could be internal business, clients, open projects, prospecting, marketing, training, and to-do, all with appropriate sub-folders under the main folder.  If the prospect of spending hours or even days organizing your messages isn’t realistic for you, schedule just 15 minutes per day to focus on this.  
  • If you spend too much time on email, a common suggestion is to schedule ‘email appointments’ where you only check messages at set times during the day for 15-20 minutes.  For some of you, this may work and for others (including me), this doesn’t work as well.  I’ve modified that suggestion to instead scan messages each hour and respond to critical ones right away.  The others I save until my next email appointment. 
  • Too many messages is something most of us face and there are too many possible causes and solutions for this to even attempt to list them here.  If this is your biggest problem, email us and tell you what you think the cause it and we’ll send you back some ideas to help you solve it.
  • If you can’t get what you need on-the-go, your tools don’t work together, you have no technical support, or are fed up with outages and limitations, you may need a different email tool.

Evaluate Your Tools

If your business or productivity levels are impacted by loss of data, no automatic syncing of email, calendar, and contacts, network outages, and time spent with technical support, it may be time for a new email tool.

Many small businesses have opted to use free email tools and services available today.  The challenge is that most of these tools weren’t designed for business use so they are limited in capability.  And if your business email address is not using your URL in it (i.e. you have a,, address), you are missing a key branding and credibility-building opportunity. 

Microsoft Outlook and Exchange are the leading email solution today, for both large corporations and small businesses.  This solution offers the features you need to:

  1. Work productively on-the-go with real-time synchronization for smartphone and secure access from any PC or laptop.  No more plugging your phone into your computer to sync all of the data!
  2. Reduce your email risk with full data back-up, automatic virus and spam filtering, and 99.9% uptime.
  3. Increase collaboration within your team with calendar, contact, and task sharing.

Warning – here is the sales pitch part.  Drop us a note today if you want to learn more about Microsoft Exchange email and how you can take advantage of all of these features (and more – including a real technical support team) for less than $1 per day.  Added bonus – new clients who register for Exchange email in January may qualify for a free month of service!  OK, pitch over.

If any of this information helped you better manage your email, leave us a comment and let us know.  And, if you have an idea that has helped you and may work for others too, feel free to post that too.

Coming up next week – social media resolutions!