Debbie Mayo-Smith international inspirational motivational how-to speaker technology, time management, improving business performance
Motivational Speakers, Sales, Marketing, Time Management, Productivity, Technology, Tips

Let your inbox secretary do the sorting for you

You know that one of the biggest pains for businesses and individuals is managing email. It consumes time. Creates stress. Much of it is unproductive. Considering that staff time is overhead, its inefficient use adds up to a big cost to business, large and small.

So what a shame that almost no one uses one simple inbox function that can save at least $1770 per staff member a year (15 minutes x 235 working days a year = 59 hours x average wage $30 = $1770).

I say this through experience. Whenever I do Outlook or Lotus Notes productivity training, I send out a pre-training online survey - from the executive assistants of Australian and New Zealand government ministers to the executive assistants to the CEOs of major Australian corporations like ING and Telstra; from business development, operational and management banking staff to the small business owner and management.

The responses always tell the same story: eight out of 10 don't know the function. The other 20 per cent barely use it.

What almost every single email user does not know is that we all have our own private, efficient inbox secretary, regardless of the software or web service used.

It is your own private inbox secretary to prioritise, answer, forward or delete emails. Depending on the volume of email a person handles, a lot of time can be saved. When used throughout the company and in conjunction with websites - even call centres - the accumulated increase in productivity and improvement in customer response and service can be extraordinary.

Your inbox secretary is simply my name for the rules/filter function in your email program.
When setting a rule, it will ask for an answer to five questions:

Would you like me to look at the emails you are receiving or sending?

What would you like me to look for? For example, a word in the subject line or the body, where your name is (in the To or CC space), a level of importance, an email address, even a piece of an email address.

When I see it, what shall I do? File it in what folder? Answer it with what? Delete it? Forward it to whom?

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

When we turn this rule on, do you want me to run it through your inbox too? (Great for all you pilers out there - those with hundreds or thousands of emails in your main inbox. You can use this to start creating order.)

Having outlined what and how a rule works for you, it means nothing until you apply it to solve problems. Here are a few ways I see this email function having a dramatic impact.

Have repetitive emails go straight to folders - items such as newsletters, RSVPs, mail delivery errors, out of office notes, voting, meeting acceptances or personal email.

Junk mail. Rules create another level of filtering for spam and junk mail by searching for words like "V1agra", "president's daughter" or the domain Nigeria. If your IT department sends screened emails to staff with the word "spam" added to the subject line, a rule can move it to a folder.

Mitigate high CC and BCC volume. Often these are not germane, or the most important item in an inbox. Having them corralled into a CC folder helps prioritise one's attention to more important items.

Delay sending out email. How many times have you forgotten to "attach" before hitting the send button? You can create a rule that delays the actual physical sending of the emails for a period of time, like five or 10 minutes.

Employee sick or on vacation: A rule can automatically forward emails that need to be acted on to someone else.

Assistants' multiple inboxes. Rules are of great benefit to executive and personal assistants, especially when working for several managers. They can create folders for each manager and have items such as travel, work, to do or CCs sorted for them automatically.

Standardise in-house subject lines. FYI/FYA - for your information or action. Rules can then sort these out.

Web response/call centres can benefit greatly from the clever utilisation of rules.
For example, incoming emails can be scanned for words or specific email addresses and automatically forwarded to the correct person, or sent to a folder to show importance. Or an automatic response can be triggered.

Another example:

Management can be copied into the emails to ensure staff are responding in a timely manner.

The bottom line is that by cleverly looking for repetitive emails, patterns and recognising which have low or high priority, you can pay attention to the right email at the right time and significantly reduce manually handling many incoming emails. In other words, less time, less stress and quicker response.

Debbie Mayo-Smith (BSc Hons Econ) is an International Motivational Business Speaker and Managing Director of SuccessIS! ( and a leading specialist in easy practical ways to improve business profitability, personal productivity and Internet marketing. Debbie lives in NZ and travels the world speaking, writing and training. By the way, if you'd like to get lots of neat tricks like this, plus marketing and business development tips, why not enrol for our free newsletter?

This article is copyright to Debbie Mayo-Smith & SuccessIS. You may use it for your newsletter, website or as an article. It can be reproduced - but in its entirety and with inclusion of Debbie Mayo-Smith as the author and the weblink


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