Don’t let digital demands bog you down: Organizing e-mails and voice messages

 It’s a typical Monday morning and, armed with a cup of strong coffee and a memo pad, I enter my office and prepare to begin my week. There’s a blinking red light on my phone, which means that I have received voice messages — 15 of them, to be exact. Microsoft Outlook also informs me that I have 28 e-mails, including one from the makers of Rogaine (the hair is gray but I do have a full head of it), and another from Miss Cleo, informing me that I’d better sign up for her psychic hotline to find out if my spouse is cheating on me. I reply to Miss Cleo (“If you’re so good why can’t you predict the lottery!”), delete the Rogaine ad and put the rest on hold so I can make my 9 o’clock meeting. The phone is ringing as I leave the office. That’s a typical day — and I don’t even have a beeper or a cell phone!

According to a recent Gallup poll, the average executive receives 190 communications a day: 30 e-mails, 22 voice messages, four pager beeps, three express mailings, plus phone calls, letters and faxes. Most of us — myself included — feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of communications.

I’m probably one of the most disorganized guys on campus; that’s why when my editor asked me to do this story, I knew I needed help. Fortunately, I was able to contact Maria Gracia, an organizational guru and author of the book, “Finally Organized, Finally Free.” She offered some extremely valuable advice.

E-Mail extravaganza
Gracia receives up to 150 e-mails a day and, since she conducts much of her business on-line, she cannot afford to lose track of them.

First of all, she suggests checking e-mails two or three times per day, at specific, set times. This does not mean checking them when you’re on your way to a meeting, but at specified times when you can give them attention without distraction. Quickly preview the messages and scan them. Delete “spam” and anything you don’t need immediately. Time spent on e-mail? A few seconds. each.

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