How efficient are you at e-mail organization?


POSTED: Monday, June 08, 2009

In the book “;Phone Power,”; George Walther writes, “;There is no single activity American businesspeople spend more time doing (and less time improving) than using the telephone.”;

Now that e-mail has largely replaced phone calls and office memos, the same can be said for e-mail conversations.

Studies have shown that routine memos were written once, then rewritten 4.2 times, taking a total of 54 minutes. If an employee earned $35,000 per year, the final version of the memo, with all its revisions, could cost $81.90! In contrast, e-mail that can be forwarded to hundreds in mere minutes can represent great savings.

But for many, e-mail has become a time, and therefore money, waster and stressor. E-mail piles in our desktop in-boxes mirror the paper piled on our desks, causing the same frustration in handling, shuffling and searching for information. Too many workers spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy on this.

How are you doing at handling your e-mail? I invite you to make this simple assessment and check those statements that are true for you.


☐ I feel like I'm drowning in e-mail.

☐ My e-mail in-box is overflowing.

☐ I check my e-mail whenever a new message arrives.

☐ I tend to “;shuffle”; my e-mail (look at it a number of times without taking action).

☐ I spend too much time reading and answering e-mail.

☐ I create every response from scratch, even for recurring, routine responses.

☐ I don't bother to change the subject line and let it repeat endlessly.

☐ I let e-mail threads dangle continuously.

☐ I sometimes have trouble locating information I know is in an e-mail I've received.

☐ I tend to send long, rambling responses.

☐ I seem to spend too much time composing e-mail.

☐ My e-mail response is sent as a big block of text not easily readable by the recipient.

☐ I freely forward jokes, funny stories and tips.

☐ I forward e-mail chain letters.

☐ I feel I must respond to every e-mail I receive.

☐ I send attachments freely.

☐ I type using the hunt-and-peck system.

☐ I often leave messages in my in-box because I don't know what to do with them.

☐ I've never purged my e-mail files.

☐ I feel spending so much time on e-mail is taking time from doing “;real work.”;

☐ I sometimes forget to respond.

☐ I use my work e-mail for personal business.

☐ I lose track of time and spend more time in an e-mail session than planned.

☐ I type in my signature and contact information each time.

☐ My in-box has become a black hole; messages come in but don't come out.

☐ I have maxed out the number of messages my in-box can hold.

☐ I receive too much spam mail.

☐ I handle e-mail the same way as when I first began using it and haven't improved my efficiency at all.


The fewer check marks you have, the higher your score. The more check marks, the more room for improvement. (Some of the statements reveal the remedy.)

There are no easy answers, but in my next column I'll share some tips and encouragement. Meanwhile, I invite you to e-mail your best tips to me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). You can also share your e-mail pet peeves! See you in two weeks!