Time saver: Break these 3 bad email habits

Improving office efficiency is a frequent theme in FiercePracticeManagement. Email is a big example of a time-saving tool that can easily become a drag on productivity for physicians and employees alike. To make better use of the time docs spend handling electronic communications, consider the following tips about what not to do from Harvard Business Review.

Don't send mass emails to alert colleagues you are going to be away. Instead, two weeks before you leave for vacation or a business trip, announce the dates you'll be away in your email signature, suggested author and Senior Associate Editor Sarah Green. "This is a much better way of giving colleagues a heads-up than a mass email message, which few people will read or remember, and it lets me deal with last-minute requests before I leave so that I can fully disconnect while I'm away," she wrote.

Don't ask other people to change their behavior. When you use your out-of-office reply, don't ask people to resend their message when you return, as they may perceive you as arrogant. It's also not likely worth your time to try to instruct people to be more specific with their subject lines, use email only for urgent matters, etc. Rather, invest your energy in managing your own email habits.

Give up on having a super-tidy inbox. The idea of "touch it once"--meaning respond and file or delete--is passé, noted Green. "Sometimes even answering a simple yes-or-no question means asking for other people's input, doing background reading or conducting a bit of research," she wrote. Similarly, the goal of "inbox zero" is time-wasting and unrealistic, she added, as is adhering to elaborate folder systems. "How can a person who barely has time to read her email possibly have time to sort it?," she asked. "That's what the search box is for."

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