To reply or delete: That is the question

Last byte | A conversation with Marsha Egan, Egan Email Solutions CEO

Egan Email Solutions CEO Marsha Egan

Love it or hate it, e-mail is here to stay. Marsha Egan, chief executive officer
of Egan Email Solutions, said that when e-mail is used ineffectively, it
can be a corporate cancer that cripples the productivity of entire

But it doesn't have to be that way. She has advised groups and businesses
such as the American Red Cross, Merrill Lynch and State Farm on ways to
put e-mail distractions aside and get their work done. Egan recently spoke
with Deputy Editor William Welsh about getting a grip on e-mail.

Q: Before we get into the downside, what is
the benefit of e-mail?

Egan: E-mail could be one of the best technological
inventions of the 20th century. It is
inexpensive, fast and you can copy a lot of
people at once and you can share documents
at nearly the speed of light. When e-mail is
used well, it is a great efficiency tool.

Q: What is a common wasteful e-mail

Egan: If people use e-mail urgently, and the
bosses use e-mail urgently, people in the
operation realize they have to look at every
e-mail message as it comes in. The big challenge
hurting many people is that they are
allowing e-mail to interrupt them.

Q: How frequently should someone check
e-mail during the day?

Egan: We recommend that in the average
working environment no more than five
times a day. Do it first thing in the morning,
mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon and
20 minutes before you close for the day.

Q: How can people better manage their

Egan: E-mail is not dialogue. Too many people
use e-mail in the place of dialogue. And they try
to use e-mail when they shouldn't be using email.
We've all been on the wrong end of an e-mail
that was miscommunicated or misunderstood,
and we know how much time and how much of
a tearing down of a relationship it created.

Q: How careful should people be about what
they put in an e-mail message?

Egan: E-mail is very good for sharing unemotional
and factual information, such as directions
to the meeting or the agenda for the

When you and I are talking in person, it is
said that 70 percent to 80 percent is done by
voice inflexion and body language. With email
you lose 70 percent to 80 percent of the
communication. That probably explains why
many things are misinterpreted by e-mail.

Q: How does someone get a grip on e-mail
when it starts to get out of hand?

Egan: People need to change the way they
view their inbox, from that of a holding tank
to that of a U.S. Postal Service mailbox. You
don't put mail back in the mailbox after you
pull it out. We recommend that whenever you
go into your inbox, you go with the intention
of sorting it as you would your USPS mail.
You are going to delete some, you are going
to work on some immediately, and then you
are going to sort the rest by what you need to
act on and how fast you have to act on it.

When people confuse working e-mail with
sorting e-mail, they end up in their e-mail for
an hour not working on the report the boss
wants by the end of the day.

Q: What else is important to consider?

Egan: Managing your e-mail is about managing
yourself. In order to manage yourself,
you need to know what your priorities are.
Your priorities may be some of the items that
are delivered by e-mail, but I don't know
many people who on their deathbed will say
"Gee, I wish I'd done more e-mail."

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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