After getting my morning buzz with a cup of coffee, the very first thing I do when I get into the office is check email. Sometimes that check begins even before I walk out my own front door via my work phone. For many of us in government, email is at the center of our work universe. Let’s face it, email is a large part of doing business in government. While we are at the mercy of the inbox, there are various tactics we can employ to better manage the incoming flow of emails.
After asking a couple of local government officials and private industry executives on how they best manage email there were two tactics that kept coming up: the touch-it-once principle and prioritizing email by the sender hierarchy. I realize these aren’t earth shattering approaches, but it may buy back some time of your work life and improve productivity:
Try to apply the touch-it-once principle
I remember the first time I spent an excessive amount of time responding to an email (aka email procrastination). I opened it, read it and gave it some thought, tabled it for later, opened it again at a later time, and then opened it for a final time and sent it forward. All of the time spent pondering about the response and reading it multiple times wasted time that could have been spent on other efforts. The touch-it-once principle may help avoid this predicament. The rule is once you receive an email (or task), you respond to it by acting on it, delegating it, filing it, or deleting it. Applying this approach may help improve your responsiveness and ultimately reduce your growing backlog of email. While realistically, you can not apply this approach to your whole inbox, it is a good principle to strive for.
Prioritize emails based on the seniority of the sender
Whether you are at the top or bottom of the ranks of your organization, you have someone to answer to – leadership, clients, or stakeholders. When I posed that basic question to execs about how to best manage responding to emails, they all indicated the importance of prioritizing their responses based on the most senior person in their inbox. The easiest way to do so, is to filter emails by name and respond from there. Though this seems like an obvious approach, it becomes especially important when you have a high volume of emails.
Brigitte Mardigras is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). The views expressed by this author are her own and do not represent the views of the Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Government. You can also find Brigitte on Twitter at @brigitttem. To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.