What would harm your health more: no access to food, water, or e-mail? Worldwide, people are beginning to wonder why all roads now lead to our inboxes. In less than 20 years, e-mail and its off-shoot instant messaging (IM) have monopolised business communication. Who picks up the phone any more, or crosses the room to talk with a co-worker, unless the building is on fire?
Born in 1990, e-mail undoubtedly offers great advantages. Our inboxes record our important conversations, requests and replies. And it is a cheap, quick and convenient way to connect your business or stay in touch with far-flung friends and family.
Mail in moderation
But our growing over-reliance on e-mail is leading many people to believe they have an unhealthy dependence. Check these symptoms to see if you could be an e-mail addict:
From the White House to your house
If you now consider yourself an “e-mailaholic”, you share powerful company. US President Obama has recently revealed he is addicted to his handheld e-mail device. From the Oval Office to your office and in thousands between, people are beginning to admit they waste too much time in their inbox.
Why is this bad?
Being obsessed with e-mail actually reduces your productivity if you spend more time waiting for messages than finishing important jobs. Equally, it’s unhealthy if you find yourself getting up in the night to find a Wi-Fi spot, or in your free time it stops you from relaxing with friends and family.
Facing your addiction
If you need to, now’s your chance to check your inbox. But please return to read four tips on how to tackle your addiction.
1. Set a virtual curfew: Outside work hours you need to reduce the impact of e-mail on yourself and loved ones. You need downtime and they want to enjoy your company without inbox incursions. If you have to, give yourself one hour when you come home from work to check, and then turn off and chill out. Try not to get online as soon as you wake up and before sleeping. Even consider having one e-mail-free day per week.
2. Talk more, type less: Too often we type mails that raise more questions than they answer. You can actually save yourself time at work by making a quick call to colleagues to avoid unclear e-mail trails.
3. Write and post a letter: Once your fingers remember how to handle a pen again, you might even enjoy this. Receiving a handwritten letter is special. Share that with a friend or a client and remember: there’s more to life than the online.
4. Go cold turkey: Take a holiday without your laptop. Don’t look at your accounts. Not once! You’ll be surprised, the world can keep going without you.
Avoid the inbox trap
It might be small, but your inbox can easily become a big time-waster. To lift your productivity and enjoyment away from work, try to spend more time thinking outside your box.
Spam surveys state what many of us already know: that the amount of junk e-mail is on the rise. However, exact statistics vary: Internet security vendor McAfee claims 62 trillion spam mails were sent last year, while rival security company Norton says 350 billion went out in 2008.
One thing you can be certain of is that your spam filters are doing a lot of work these days. The trouble is, picking junk from the genuine isn’t easy. As a result, you have probably experienced the inconvenience of important e-mails from clients being redirected to your spam bin.
To avoid losing valuable customer orders, or instructions from your boss, you can quickly and easily save your Microsoft® Office Outlook® contacts to a safe sender list. This will make sure that messages from these contacts arrive in your inbox.
5 super-speedy steps
To add your Outlook contacts to the Safe Senders list, perform the following steps:
1. On the Outlook Tools menu, click Options.
2. On the Preferences tab, under E-mail, click Junk E-mail.
3. Click the Safe Senders or Safe Recipients tab.
4. Click Add.
5. In the Enter an e-mail address or Internet domain name to be added to the list box, enter the name or address you want added, and then click OK.
1-2-3. Rescue e-mail from your spam bin
If you have your Outlook Junk E-mail Filter set on a high level of protection, some of your genuine messages may go to your Junk E-mail folder – for example, e-mails from friends or customers that your filter has not seen before. To be safe, you should check your junk folder daily if you are expecting a crucial e-mail. But to make sure your filter knows not to move mails from certain people to your spam folder, follow these three steps:
1. In Mail, click the Junk E-mail folder in the Navigation Pane.
2. Right-click any message that you want to mark as not junk.
3. On the shortcut menu, point to Junk E-mail, and then click Mark as Not Junk.
Blue from your boss. Red for friends. Colour-coding
To help you identify e-mails from management or certain contacts, Outlook lets you colour-code e-mails. This means you won’t miss critical orders from head office or your loved ones.
To colour-code your e-mails:
1. Select a mail from someone you want to colour code.
2. Press Tools then click Organise. A pane will scroll down.
3. On the left side of that pane choose Using Colours. The name of the sender will now be visible in the above box.
4. Choose the option From. You’ll see the name field automatically adjusting when you select a message from someone else.
5. Choose a colour from the dropdown list and press Apply Colour.
Google and Yahoo can help too
Outlook has a lot of handy tricks for beating spam. But if you don’t use Outlook, other e-mail clients like Yahoo and Google also allow you to tag certain e-mails as junk, while they usually recognise senders loaded in your contacts as non-junk. It is worth investigating the features they offer to help you against spam.
In the battle against the spammers, it pays to be proactive. By using these Outlook features, you can make your inbox more efficient, and improve your chances of receiving the e-mails that matter most to you.
Microsoft and Outlook are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.