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8 work-saving email tips for busy office managers

Communicating via email saves time. Yes or no?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your inbox, your answer is likely to be no.

The sheer volume makes it difficult to manage email which, despite the proliferation of other technologies such as social media and text messaging, continues to invade your electronic workspace daily.

Today’s office worker sends or receives an average of 120 emails per day, according to the Radicati Group, a market research firm. And, as anyone who has ever taken a day or more away from the office knows, those unopened emails multiply quickly.

Is it any wonder that another survey, this one by GIF Software, finds that 81 percent of workers at small to midsize businesses check their work email on weekends?

Email, like other technology, has to be used optimally in order to be efficient. Here are eight tips that can help you take back some work time you spend on email – and maybe some personal time, too.

1 Use folders

Most email programs, including Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, and Yahoo! Mail, allow you to create custom folders to organize your messages.

These folders can be used like traditional file folders to store messages once they’ve been read. There are several advantages to moving messages to specific folders. Provided you label the folders properly and file the messages correctly, it’s easier to reference information when you need it. Using folders to archive messages also helps you de-clutter your inbox, which makes it less likely that you’ll overlook a new, important message. You can organize your sent messages in the same way.

Folders can also be used to presort incoming messages. You can create a filter that upon receipt of a message places it in a designated folder. Although this may be preferable for some email, the downside to presorting is that you may overlook important messages.

2 Take advantage of “stars”

Gmail and Yahoo! Mail use stars; at Microsoft Office, it’s flags. Regardless, the concept is the same. The feature allows you to select and highlight messages.

One way to use this feature is to star or flag messages for later action. For example, if you read an email and plan to reply but wish to do so later, you can flag the message for future action. There’s no need to add this kind of task to your to-do list. The star or flag alerts you to it.

3 Eliminate clutter

Most email programs have tremendous storage capacity, so there’s usually no technical reason to keep your inbox uncluttered. But deleting messages that have no value only takes a click and doing so can help you stay organized – and, as important, make you feel less overwhelmed.

Unsure what to keep? Emails promoting services the practice has no interest in utilizing can be deleted. What if you need to access that information at some point? Chances are you’ll hear from the vendor again; or, when and if the time is right, you can search on the Internet for service providers.

4 Differentiate between “To” and “Cc”

An email has three recipient fields: “To,” “Cc,” and “Bcc.”

Use “To” for the primary recipient(s) of the email, the person or people whom you wish to address and from whom you would like some sort of action or a response.

Use “Cc” to copy those individuals who only need to be included on the email for informational purposes.

By differentiating between these fields, you immediately let “Cc” recipients know that no action is required on their part.

“Bcc,” which stands for blind carbon copy, is not visible to other email recipients. Use it sparingly, and only for shared messages that require confidentiality. Because “Bcc” is used infrequently, it is recommended that if you do blind copy someone on an email, you alert that person as to why she or he is receiving the message, while letting them know the message is confidential.

5 Maximize the “Subject” line

When it comes to “Subject” lines, follow this guideline: the more specific the better.

As an example, consider this subject line: Staff Meeting. It immediately raises questions, right? Is the email following up on a previous staff meeting? Is it about an upcoming staff meeting the recipient is required to attend?

To alleviate confusion and ensure the email gets proper attention from the recipient, provide more information: Upcoming Staffing Meeting – Wednesday, [the date], 9 a.m.

6 Edit the “Subject” line

Email is frequently used for back and forth conversation, which often veers off topic from the initial message’s “Subject” line. When this occurs, it can be helpful to edit the original “Subject” line.

No longer talking about the Upcoming Staffing Meeting? Change the “Subject” line to accurately reflect the new subject.

Editing the “Subject” line alerts the recipient to the new topic, while highlighting that the new topic is discussion worthy. An appropriate “Subject” line also makes the information contained in the message easier to find later.

7 Provide essential information upfront

It is usually in your best interest to provide essential information at the beginning of an email. The exception is if you are using email for “conversational” purposes, such as brainstorming or thoughtful analysis.

Most of the time, however, the objective is to convey or ask for information quickly and/or request a call to action.

Using the previous “Upcoming Staffing Meeting – Wednesday, [the date], 9 a.m.”

email as an example, the message might read:

Our next staff meeting will take place on Wednesday, [the date], at 9 a.m. in the conference room. The meeting agenda is attached to this email. Please confirm that you will attend.

Note that even though the day, date, and time are included in the “Subject” line, this information is repeated to ensure it is not overlooked.

8 Consider alternative communication

In today’s electronic office, people tend to think email is the quickest way to convey information. This isn’t always true.

“Know when to telephone,” says productivity expert Jan Jasper. “Unless you need to send the same message to a group, or keep a record of what you said when to whom, the phone may be faster.”

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