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Tame Your E-mail Habits

The Four D's

Deal with e-mails the way you would a piece of paper. If possible, handle it only once. Then, select one of the four D's: Delete it. Do it. Delegate it. Defer it. [source: National Health Service]

E-mail seems like an ideal time-management tool, right? Instead of a series of interrupting phone calls, you can deal at your leisure with a succinct group of messages. Unfortunately, that's not the reality for most people. Instead, many find themselves continually checking e-mails and end up putting aside other work to read and answer them. You may be deluged with irrelevant messages. E-mail can quickly become a time waster.

One solution is to check your e-mail only two or three times a day. You might let your colleagues know you only look at e-mail at certain times so they don't bug you for a reply. Set aside a time to return both e-mails and phone calls. Don't break up blocks of work time.

Also, you may be able to organize your e-mail inbox by category so that you don't have to wade through a long list of miscellaneous messages. When you are out of the office, try setting up an auto-reply that lets e-mailers know who to get in touch with in your absence. Otherwise, you'll return to a bulging in-box.

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