Ever feel overwhelmed by e-mail? Does the convenience often seem more like a nuisance?
If so, you're not alone, because the average Outlook business user receives 470 e-mails a week and spends 15 hours dealing with them. By 2009, workers will spend 41 percent of their time reading and responding to e-mails, according to market research firm Radicati Group.
To fight back, some companies, led by advertising giant Kaplan Thaler Group, are going on "e-mail diets" to shrink their daily dose of electronic messages. Other executives have declared e-mail bankruptcy, shutting down their inboxes all together.
From high-profile CEOs to musicians, more professionals are saying no to e-mail. According to several reports, techno musician Moby sent a message to his address list announcing his break from e-mail.
Saying he was done with e-mail because of privacy concerns, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine announced in a statement, "We'll go back to the 1920s and have direct conversations with people." A venture capitalist made headlines when he said he was so far behind that wiping the inbox clean was the only option.
For the rest of us not ready to cut the cord just yet, there are some simple tips on how to get e-mail under control.
Cut the clutter before it starts. Take yourself off every distribution or mailing list you don't need, which includes everyone you don't instantly read. Be sure to click "no" on the "May we add you to our mailing list" box when registering on any Web site or while shopping online.
Use spam blockers. Talk to your IT department or email provider for help installing and activating spam blockers to limit the amount of junk mail you receive.
Lose multiple accounts. The Radicati Group says e-mail accounts worldwide are growing faster than e-mail users at an average annual rate of 8 percent, which means many of us have more than one e-mail account. Not just one for business and one for personal, but many people have several personal accounts, which adds to the overload. Sign off those extra accounts.
Treat your inbox as a one-stop shop. That means deal with each message once and only once by reading, responding and deleting it at the same time. This means breaking the habit of reading messages and moving on to others before acting. But once you get used to it, the practice is easy. You'll feel more efficient when you're not buried in the e-mail pileup.
Send fewer e-mails. Be part of the solution: Send fewer e-mails and think twice before CCing the whole office. It greatly reduces the number of replies you and others will receive.
And as archaic as it sounds, pick up the phone instead of sending e-mail, especially if the issue is a discussion rather than a bit of information to impart. This saves you time on back-and-forth communiqués and you'll resolve the issue faster. And if you're really daring, you'll get up from your desk to talk face to face instead of sending an e-mail to the person down the hall.
NRN. You've mastered LOL, as in laugh out loud, so now try NRN, as in no reply needed. Use this in e-mails so recipients know they need not reply. And forget for a moment what mom taught you: Office e-mail etiquette doesn't require you to thank someone for his e-mail. If you must, just type "thank you" in the subject line so the recipient can prioritize reading and deleting the e-mail.
Take a time out. For most people, a timeout is more realistic than an outright ban. If doing so during the business week is out of the question because of the nature of your work, try taking a day off on a weekend from both work and personal e-mails.
Maybe your time out is evening hours. Think of it as an e-mail fast. No matter when you do it, be sure to activate your "out of office" message so senders know you're not ignoring them.
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor for "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Connect with her at www.womenforhire.com.