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Sunday, October 31, 2010

E-mail Overload

Wednesday, October 20, was Information Overload Awareness Day. Now there’s a holiday I can relate to! For the webinar held in its honor, you could have registered for FREE if you pledged to not multitask during the event. Too bad my students don’t take that pledge!

Mark Hurst, the author of Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload, says the solution to e-mail overload is simple: Don’t become overloaded. Ha! Too late for that! As I read his list of what happens to a person when the Inbox is full of messages, I began to feel guiltier with each point he made.

The biggest message count Hurst heard of was 150,000! He claims he’s not making this up and said “that user said he did not feel fine.” Well, I’m feeling better now. Thank you.

Hurst says don’t use your Inbox as a to-do list, a file drawer, or a phone book—all those messages that keep those “bits” of information need to go elsewhere. Outlook has modules to hold those items; use them! Two ways to efficiently move the endless stream of e-mails from the Inbox to their appropriate destination include “drag and drop” and mailbox rules. These features make it easy to process your e-mail.

1) Turn e-mails into tasks and calendar appointments with “drag and drop.” Drag e-mails to the Task button to create a to-do item, or drag e-mails to the Calendar button to create an appointment. The e-mail is still in your Inbox, so go ahead and delete it.

2) Assign rules to your e-mails so they can automatically bypass the Inbox and go directly into a designated, already-created folder. This feature is powerful, yet easy to create.

“Drag and Drop” to Create Tasks or Calendar Appointments
1. Drag e-mails from your Inbox to the Task button (or Calendar button) on the Navigation Pane at the bottom left side of the screen. A new task (or appointment) opens.
2. Change the name of the task (or appointment) in the Subject line, if necessary.
3. Change the time and date and add a reminder, if you’d like.
4. Click Save & Close button.

Rule to Automatically Move Incoming E-mail Directly to Folder
1. Select an e-mail in the Inbox from the person you want to create the rule for.
2. Right click the message.
3. Select Create rule; the Create Rule dialog box displays. (Top half of box defines which e-mails will be selected; the bottom half identifies what to do with them.)
4. Place a check in the ‘From’ checkbox.
5. Click the Select Folder button; then, select the already-created folder from the list.
6. Click OK two times.
7. If you’d like to move all the e-mails currently in your Inbox that match that criteria, place a check in the Run this rule now on messages already in the current folder checkbox.
8. Click OK.

Define rules to automatically move e-mail to different folders, sound an alarm for e-mails from a particular person (the Big Cheese?), forward messages sent by a certain person to your manager. The possibilities are endless. The Create Rule dialog box has an Advanced Options button to create rules with even more selections. Experiment with it, and let me know how you use it.

One of Mark Hurst’s mantras is “Empty the Inbox as least once a day.” He says you can “delete most [e-mails], file some of them, but most importantly, get them all out of the Inbox…”

Happy Halloween!

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