Business Email Management: Managing With E-Mail

If you approach e-mail management as did your scribe at one time, your e-mail In-Box is jam-packed with 2,000 messages dating back to 1998. Most were e-mails I didn’t delete because I was going to save and re-read them “someday.” Others were there because I wasn’t sure what they were about, so I’d get back to them “someday.” The rest were there because I wanted them, but I didn’t want to take the time to file them.

By heeding the teachings of Brian Tracy, arguably the king of organization, goal setting and time management, I learned the importance of neatness and clutter clearing for increased productivity. Tracy, other time-management gurus and many business schools preach the TRAF system for document management.

TRAF is even more appropriate for e-mail. TRAF stands for Toss (trash), Refer, Action and File.

The basic tenet of document management is to touch a piece of paper only once, using TRAF. While you’re not touching e-mail, keeping it on disk, or worse on your Internet Service Provider’s server, demands management. Read it once, then TRAF it.

A case in point, my mailbox (folder, directory) of e-mail retained during a two-month period took a whopping 28.7MB of disk space. Sure, I get about 200 e-mails a day, but is it worth keeping it on 28 megs?

If you’re in the same or a smaller boat, it’s time to get managing. The first thing you have to do is switch mindsets. You’ll find the going tough at first, but you have to banish the “someday” mentality to the nether regions of your mind and start thinking TRAF all the time. This is where discipline comes in. You have to keep using TRAF if you want to stay organized. It makes no sense to get your current In-Box cleared out only to let new e-mails clutter it up again.

Here’s how I applied TRAF to the 2000+ e-mails sitting in my In-Box. To do this effectively, you need to budget your time carefully. I don’t recommend doing this over several days.

I started with Toss. I’ll be the first to tell you that Toss can be very difficult to do. The “someday” mentality kept rearing its ugly head. But I wound up tossing 1,200 e-mails.

Next was Action. I started doing this by creating an Action mailbox. Of all the messages I had received, only 94 required action. My Action folder is the first mailbox I visit every day. I encouraged myself to get the Act items taken care of, and then delete or file them. When I had completed TRA, filing required considerable effort and discipline. When you decide to file messages, think big picture. Having too many mailboxes can be as bad as having all messages in the In-Box. Remember, filing consumes disk space. Make sure that what you file is really worth filing.

According to time-management experts, of all papers filed conventionally, 80 percent are never retrieved from their file folders. The same applies to e-mail. Ask yourself whether or not you REALLY need to keep the message. You probably don’t.

Article – Copyright 2000 James H. Hyde. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA