When is the right time to check and respond to e-mail?
Having a hectic morning, hectic afternoon, hectic day all around is something we all have – if not every day, at least more often than we would like. Just getting into work for some is the hard part and then sorting through the priorities of the day’s load, and getting the momentum to get into them and complete them can be daunting. Add arranging our time to allow for those items that always pop up and interrupts our day – and well, you have all the makings for a monster work environment.
Another thing most, if not all of us have is the dreaded e-mail in box. Knowing it is probably overloaded makes some wait for the day to get rolling to tackle it. Some do it first thing in the morning, and some wait for the end of the day. Some check it and respond right away, while others will check their e-mail and hold off on a response until another time – some not at all. Many never ever think about organizing their e-mail the same the organize other files either electronically stored or around their office.
When is the right time to check your e-mail and respond?
In the past I have worked for companies that told us when we should check it and when we should respond and what we should do with the remnants – do we save them, do we sort them, once responded to, do we delete them?
I personally know people who have every last e-mail ever received sitting in their e-mail inbox, every sent held in their sent file and never have they thought of deleting their deleted folder.
Here is my personal theory (routine) on the matter.
First thing in the morning, the very first task I have is to read all my e-mails. I respond to each one that have an easy response, delete junk mail (more on this later) and those that need more thought are held.
Any e-mail responded to is deleted. If I need to worry about what I said, or the other party said, I will move it from the sent folder to a folder named for that person or organization. If it is an e-mail with information about my company I place it in a folder named for my company. For example – Staples coupons or discounts, accountant e-mails, supply order receipts, etc.
Those items that needed more attention, now get my attention,. I research and respond, and again, moving the sent file from the sent folder (which has the original e-mail attached) to the proper folder if necessary and the original e-mail is deleted.
Any e-mail sent that is not moved to a folder is deleted. Then here we go, what many people dread – I empty the deleted items folder. I have had this system for so long that I have become accustomed to moving and sorting, and by the time I have responded and moved, there is nothing in my in box, nothing in my sent folder, and only those items I absolutely don’t need are left in the deleted items folder – so it is safe to say YES, DELETE ALL ITEMS.
Throughout the day, as an e-mail arrives, I open and respond immediately – as immediately as I can but within the hour at the very latest. Handling those e-mails the same way. It is nice to know at the end of the day, before I shut down my computer for the evening, that all my e-mail is read, responded to, sorted and yes, the inbox, sent and deleted items folder is empty. Of course, once every few months I sort through the individual folders I have set up for each of my clients and other items and delete the items no longer needed – old receipts, questions posed and now obsolete, etc.
Someone once told me I should never answer an e-mail immediately because it makes me look needy. Like I have nothing else to do. Well here is my answer to that – Are you nuts?
My clients have deadlines. I have deadlines. If I waste time not checking my e-mails I may have already blown the deadline for myself and my clients. Being able to meet the deadlines of my clients is a big part of CLK Transcription’s performance model.
E-mails that come from solicitors with offers, if I don’t check my e-mail before I order, I may miss the offer forever.
In this day and age, e-mail is like instant communication for me. It is the same as answering my phone. I have e-mail on my Blackberry for those times I may need to be away from my computer more than a moment or two.
Does it interfere with my work. Hardly. Does it cramp my personal time? Hardly. It is routine and a routine that works for me. I have never had anyone say – why didn’t you return my e-mail? I also have never had anyone tell me – you blew my TAT.
So, when it is a good time to check and respond to e-mails? I think it depends on your routine, your workflow, and your responsibilities. But one thing is for sure – organizing is important, and responding is a must.
Otherwise, you never know what you are missing, or what you may have missed.
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