Email Ruling You? Here’s How to Fight Back

Email illustration - freeAll the technology in the world will not help you if you cannot manage your time or tasks. Recruiting is a complex sale, but the process is not rocket science. More than anything it requires organization and focus. Keeping the process as simple as possible means you’ll produce more, better and faster.

Without question, the top culprit for stealing your time is email. Even in this age of tweets and texts, in the business world, email is still king and it’s easy to find statistics that show the average American office worker wastes as much as 40% of their day lost in email. So you have to ask yourself: Is email running your life or your company?

Learning to rein in and control the email beast is crucial for our employees and for us. Don’t assume recruiters and support staff automatically know how to efficiently organize their email or their time. While nobody wants to feel micro-managed, at least put some suggested policies in place to teach your people the value and advantages to well-managed email and time organization. Below are some ideas I have discovered and implemented over the years.

Faster Email Answering

Put email on a schedule: You simply cannot stop every time you get a new email. You are in control and can’t afford to let email monopolize your day. Check email only at set times — no more than three to four times daily. Stick to your schedule so that the rest of the day is spent getting into a productive flow making placements and making money.

Touch emails once: Consider that if you spend 15 minutes re-reading or re-addressing emails daily, you will lose 97 hours per year. If it takes you an hour, that’s six weeks of lost time each year! How many more placements, and how much more money could you have made with that lost time? Never put an email on hold. Come on already; read it and make a decision. Respond to it now, delete it, or archive it if it contains information you want to keep for the record. Don’t bog down your inbox with an overflow of messages because you cannot make a decision.

Create a “Waiting for Response” folder: One thing I find highly useful is to “cc” myself on any email for which I am waiting on a response. When I receive my own cc, I quickly move it to my “Waiting for Response” folder or, as I like to call it, my CYA folder. (In Microsoft Outlook you can actually set up a rule that will send these emails automatically to your CYA folder.) That way, if I need to retrieve it, it is easy to find. Much better than those who waste minutes and hours searching for that missing email that was sent, but now has to be resent so they can get an answer.

Action emails: Some emails will take longer than a few minutes to address. Move those to an action folder to address and finish them at the end of your email session.

Tips for Writing Emails

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Subject lines: Make sure to keep them short, simple and specific so that they are relevant for the content of that email. If the topic addressed in the email changes, then change the subject line too. Relevant subject lines assist in a faster response and a quicker search function.

Be brief and thorough: Answer the necessary questions: Who are you? What do you want? Why are you asking? Why should I do what you are asking? What is the next step? Anything else is blah, blah, blah – we have enough of that. Everyone hates long emails; they don’t get read. Get to the point. Most emails should be no longer than it takes to answer those five questions.

Private emails don’t exist: For the love of all that is good and holy, keep EVERY email polite and professional. Assume that every email you send will be read the following morning on the Today Show. If it doesn’t pass the Today Show test, don’t send it. And learn the difference between “Reply” and “Reply All!” I’ve seen careers destroyed over a simple “Reply All” error.

I make it a goal to leave the office each day with no more than three emails in my inbox. Believe it or not, it really feels great to end the day knowing my email box is purged and not overloaded with dozens of messages that still require attention on my part. I have no control over the number of people who vie for my attention through email each day. I do have control over how I’m going to respond and when I’m going to respond. If my house is on fire or a family member needs help, I’m pretty sure I won’t be notified by email. It’s highly doubtful you’ll ever receive an email that can’t wait a little while —until your next email session. Keep some perspective, keep a schedule, and keep your sanity.

Debby Millhouse is the Owner and President of CEO Inc. Founded in Charlotte, NC in 1994, CEO Inc. is a full service recruiting firm providing direct hire placement, temp staffing and human capital services for clients nationwide. Millhouse has been honored as one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women by The Mecklenburg Times, inducted into the Business Leader Hall of Fame as one of the top entrepreneurs in the Charlotte area, and given the Women in Business Achievement Award winner by the Charlotte Business Journal. CEO Inc. has also been honored with the Charlotte Ethics in Business Award, Charlotte Best Places to Work Award, and recognized as one of the top 50 diversity-owned businesses in the state of North Carolina. She is a Certified Staffing Professional (CSP) as designated by the American Staffing Association, Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and Certified Temporary Staffing Specialist (CTS) as designated by the National Association of Personnel Services. She can be reached at 704-372-4701 or visit for more information.