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Filters are saving grace for spam-filled in-boxes


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POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2009

E-mail can be a blessing or a curse. A blessing because it's so convenient; curse because it has taken on a life of its own, demanding an increasing amount of time and attention, especially in the workplace.

Are you frustrated with the amount of time e-mail consumes? If so, it's time to outfox your in-box! By far the No. 1 complaint about e-mail is spam, unwanted e-mail. The good news is that e-mail programs come with built-in spam-filtering features.

Find them in the “;Mail”; drop-down menu. Select “;Preferences,”; then “;Junk Mail.”; There, you can engage the junk mail filter and set rules as to what constitutes junk for you, whether you want it left in your in-box or moved to the junk mail box, among other choices.

Here's how Brad Strumwasser handles spam e-mail so that what's important doesn't get lost or overlooked: “;I've taken to having items like offers from eBay, Amazon, Borders, Orbitz, Avis and a variety of newsletters automatically forwarded to spam. This way, I don't spend every day sorting, and if I want to search for them, I'll go to my spam folder. After 30 days they get automatically dumped. This is already saving me more than 15 minutes a day.”;

Brad is a great example of someone who recognized a problem and took action to remedy it.

I'M GLAD THAT someone told me years ago never to try to get off e-mail lists by replying directly to junk mail senders, as that lets them know that my e-mail address is legitimate. That results in being placed on more junk mail lists.

As for well-meaning friends who freely forward jokes, tips and chain letters, you can suffer in silence or you can kindly let them know which, if any, are useful and ask them that, due to e-mail overload, they not forward the others.

In computer expert Peter Kay's Webinar “;How to Have an Empty Inbox”; at http://www.viddler.com/explore/peterkay/ videos/3/3, he advises not making your in-box your to-do list. Kay sums up in-box time management in four steps:

1. Commit to clearing your in-box completely once a day.

2. Sort in descending time order, with the newest e-mail first, as the most recent messages might contain information and decisions that have been made. It's like having a summary of the preceding e-mails.

3. Process, file or delete. Deal with each message one by one. Act on it immediately if possible. Drag and drop into your task/to-do folder or folders by sender (or project or topic).

4. Enjoy relaxed e-mail for the rest of the day.

Christie Adams offers another valuable e-mail tip: “;Handle your e-mail at approximately the same time or times every day. Do not attempt to read and respond to an e-mail every time one shoots into your computer.”;

That one tip can make the biggest difference in one's ability to focus on “;real work”; for significant blocks of time.

Pam Chambers shared that she has an average of five e-mails in her box at any given time. Otherwise, she writes, she doesn't think as well.

I recommend keeping only as many messages in your in-box as fit on the top half of your screen. The bottom half is to preview your opened messages.

To make filing easier, I place any active folders at the top of my files on the left side of the screen by placing the prefix “;A”; before the title. That way, I can drag and drop laterally from my in-box without scrolling down on the left side. When that folder is no longer active, I rename it without the prefix and drag and drop to its normal location farther down the list.

By problem solving inefficiencies and by utilizing built-in e-mail features, you're on your way to outfoxing your in-box and gaining control of this useful tool!

See you in two weeks!