Leading Web thinker Jakob Nielsen coined the term "information pollution" and has some recommendations to help information workers wrest back their productivity from their inbox.
- Rather than checking your e-mail constantly, choose a set time to check in and see new messages.
- Don't use "reply to all" when responding to e-mail. Send follow-up messages only to those people who will actually benefit from the reply.
- Write informative subject lines for your e-mail messages. Be specific.
- Create a special e-mail address for personal messages and newsletters. Only check this account once per day.
- Be brief.
- Avoid instant messaging unless real-time interaction will truly add value to the communication. A one-minute interruption of your colleagues will cost them ten minutes of productivity as they reestablish their mental context and get back into "flow."
- Answer common customer questions on your Web site using clear and concise language. This will save your customers a lot of time and keep them from pestering you with time-consuming phone calls and e-mails.
- User-test your intranet. Clean it up so that employees can find information faster, and make the intranet homepage their entry point for keeping up on company news and events.
- Don't circulate internal e-mail to all employees; put the information on the intranet where people can find it when they need it.
- Establish a company culture in which it's acceptable not to respond to e-mail immediately. This frees employees from the pressure of incessantly checking e-mail and lets them get more work done.
Reducing the volume of messages is a worthwhile goal for almost every organization. If you can achieve it, you can subsequently reduce other costs associated with managing e-mail, including server operations, personal interruption rates, message handling by recipients and even message origination. When you reduce e-mail volume, productivity does increase, and the e-mail system becomes a more effective tool for the messages it does handle.