As James Murdoch has recently found out, managing your emails can really be quite a chore.
It can be easy to miss important emails, see but not read them or have them accidentally land in your spam filter.
Managing your email well will improve your life immeasurably.
My top tips for managing email, and making sure you both receive and read them are:
Create a priority tag:
Create a big bright flashing priority tag or folder and apply that to anyone hugely important. That could be your boss or the guy with really important information about a massive big news event happening in your organisation.
Apply this to anyone else who, should you miss their email, will find you either fired or in deep trouble in front of a select committee/the world.
Make this tag bold as you like, however your email client allows.
Once one of these emails crop up, make sure you read it, and follow it up as soon as it's received.
Create some useful folders:
Make folders to help you organise the morass of emails you will be bombarded with every day. Read, action, subscriptions, archive and reference are all useful titles. If you're working on a particular project, like a renovation, or holiday, create a folder for them.
Recognise how an email needs to be dealt with. Do you need to act, but it's not a priority? Add it to the action folder. Do you need to read, but at your leisure? Add it to the read folder.
If you sign up to online store or hobby newsletters, add them all to your subscriptions folder and flip through them when you have time.
Any email that you don't need to act on in any way can be swept into your archive folder.
Do not be afraid of the trash folder. Use it. There are plenty of emails that require nothing at all from you and are not worth keeping. They include humorous forwards or chain mail. Where are these coming from anyway, the nineties?
Act when you open an email
Act on an email by filing or replying as soon as you open it. Don't kid yourself into thinking you'll remember to reply or act on an email later. You'll soon be trawling LOLcats and will have forgotten all about it.
If think you don't have time to act on email, don't be tempted to open them.
For instance, if you're lounging in your hammock sipping a pina colada on the weekend, and you think "oh I'll just peruse my correspondence on my BlackBerry", be honest with yourself. Have you got the time and inclination to deal with what could be a hugely important email at that moment. No? Then check them later, when you're more cogniscent.
Email is not a phone call
Emails can be hugely important, some so much so that they close profitable newspapers. But they have an in-built time delay. If someone really wants to reach you urgently, they will call, or send minions/heavies to your door. This means you have a time allowance for responding to them. Respond when you can. See tips one and three.
Avoid email all together
Atos, the tech company behind the Olympics, has banned email all together for their staff. It's not because they are mean-spirited, but because there are other methods of communicating that can be more efficient.
Online chat like G-Chat, AIM or Facebook chat can be much faster for banter or quick solutions. You could always consider talking to people face to face the good old fashioned way.
What are your email management tips? Share them with us in comments below.