These days, it's hard enough to keep up with e-mail on a day-to-day basis, let alone after you've been away on vacation for a week or more. For advice on taming the e-mail monster, M&C spoke with Laura Stack (pictured left), productivity expert, speaker and author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best (productivitypro.com).
Make a task folder. Place those e-mails that you need to act on into a to-do folder. All e-mail software (as in Outlook)has the functionality to create such a repository, and you can label messages according to subject, deadline, etc.
Follow the "6-D" protocol. All e-mails can be processed in one of six ways, using the letter D: 1) Delete, 2) Delegate (send to someone else who can better deal with it), 3) Do it (reply directly at once), 4) Date the e-mail and file as outlined above, 5) Drawer, as in save and file away for possible future reference, and 6) Deter, as in unsubscribing or doing whatever it takes to get off that source's e-mail list. In this regard, another feature built into all e-mail programs is a "rules" or "personal assistant" function that can be programmed to refuse e-mails from certain sources or that have certain words in the subject line.
Create a "signature" for standard replies. If you keep replying in similar terms to certain e-mails, save time by creating a template for the reply (with fields to fill in for names, dates, etc.) using your "Signature" (or similar) function in Outlook or other e-mail program.