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Vol. 46, No. 1 November 2008 .pdf version
Technical advice: Better manage your e-mail, better manage your life
By TED GANGI / Webmaster
The facsimile machine was such a fine invention. Thank goodness, no more telecopiers.
And, then along came the plain-paper fax and, then there it was electronic mail. And, on top of that, e-mail with attachments. Right there, right on your computer screen.
Now, you were home free. No more waiting by the fax machine. No more busy signals. No more incomplete, crooked or illegible faxes.
Life was good.
Until, e-mail started multiplying faster than the hangers in your closet.
Here they come, by the dozens. In all shapes and sizes. With attachments, big and small.
Every morning, you wake up, fire up the laptop or even your cell phone and they just keep on a-coming. One after the other.
Ask anyone in our business how much e-mail they get and the answer will be, "Too much."
Is it really possible that e-mail has become a burden?
Try taking a few days off now and then, with your eyes closed and your fingers crossed, check your e-mail.
And, mixed in with all that are work assignments, bad jokes, bills, e-mails from readers of all intelligence levels and various spam messages. And then there are some things you actually might need hidden in there.
So, what are we to do? Here are a few suggestions:
If you haven't already done so, create a separate personal e-mail account, whether it's with your home internet provider or a free service like Yahoo! or AOL. Once you do that, keep it separate. And make sure that goes for your outgoing messages, too. Remember, it's against most company policy to use their e-mail for any personal reason.
Remove yourself from any lists you don't want to be on. Be polite, but ask to be removed. (In many cases, it's automated.) Make sure, however, you don't get overzealous with this, because, in some cases, it might be more of a pain to get back on a list.
Clear out you messages as often as possible. Save the ones you need and kill the rest. T he last thing you want are hundreds of old messages. With many providers, there are ways to save old e-mail to a local drive, if you really feel you need those old messages.
Keep your outgoing messages short and to the point. The less e-mail you send, the less you will get. But, when you do send an e-mail, again, get to the point.
Use common courtesy and answer your e-mail as quickly as possible, or simply respond to say that it might take a while to fully respond to a request.
Don't get into an online "shouting" match with a reader (or colleague). Many newspapers are asking that their writers respond to e-mail, so do your best. But, remember, people read into things in strange ways, so keep it vanilla and on point and, of course, short. T he last thing you want is that reader firing off e-mails to you and then getting his face-painting friends to join in.
And, perhaps most of all, pick up the phone. If you have something to discuss, call the recipient. No sense in making a mess of each other's inbox. Make a phone call, say hello, and then resolve the situation. It's a nice, more personal approach.
Now, I can't say that I always follow those rules. There are always exceptions. And, you are likely going to overlook an occasional e-mail, just as someone may overlook one of yours. Don't take it personally. That's another good time to make a phone call. Just because people receive their e-mail instantly doesn't mean they are going to respond instantly.
While e-mail does continue to pile up, you can do your part by limiting what you send. And, even more so, be responsive as much and as quickly as you can.
E-mail is not going away. Although social networking sites like Facebook will continue to provide new ways to communicate. But as much as we all rely on e-mail, we can all make the Internet a better place by using some common sense, discretion and respect for each other's time.
Ted Gangi is the webmaster of the USBWA's official site, usbwa.com. He also runs collegepressbox.com, a media website for 56 schools in five Division I football conferences. He is based in Dallas.
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