getting control of email

Email icon The typical product manager sends and receives about 100 emails a day. Some have many, many more, so good email hygiene is a must. Use some smarts in managing your email and start being productive right away. Let's start the new year on the right foot by getting control of email.

In 4 Ways to Take Control of Your E-mail Inbox, Sally McGhee offers these tips.

The "Four D's for Decision Making" model (4 D's) is a valuable tool for processing e-mail, helping you to quickly decide what action to take with each item and how to remove it from the Inbox. Decide what to do with each and every message.

  • Delete it
  • Do it
  • Delegate it
  • Defer it

You should also learn to use filters or "rules" in Outlook jargon. Microsoft describes how in managing messages using rules. Some rules to consider:

  • increase importance of emails sent only to me
  • increase importance of email sent from my boss or admin
  • move emails from a specific email account into another folder
  • move emails when I am CC'd into a reference folder
  • move emails related to a project to another folder
  • reduce importance of emails with "RE:" in the title

(If you're using a Mac, you can also change the font and background color of the messages.)

When you're in the midst of a project, you can't get anything done if you're interrupted frequently. Consider using Out of Office replies even when you're in the office. So while you're heads-down, set up an Out of Office reply for your incoming emails. "I'm away from my desk and I'll get back to you in a few hours. Also check out my product information page, particularly the FAQs." A link to the appropriate page helps.

And one final tip: Email doesn't replace phone calls or meetings; it supplements them. When the thread gets more than two or three messages, pick up a phone and talk to the person or schedule a meeting for a bigger team discussion.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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