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NPR News

Overcoming E-Mail Overload at Work

There has been an explosion of e-mail in offices across the country, and not all of it is spam. Answering 50 or 100 e-mails a day -- or just wading through them -- can disrupt workflow and cost money. Business consultant Marilyn Paul offers ways to rein in e-mail -- and make it a tool instead of a burden.

Paul, author of It's Hard To Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys, says that remembering some practical tips can help people, and offices -- use e-mail more effectively. She says it all begins with not relying on e-mail to be an urgent forum for discussion. Instead, Paul says, it should be a peripheral tool for keeping in touch with colleagues and clients.

By keeping messages short and refusing to let circles of conversation take place in round after round of e-mail, workers and their colleagues can handle tasks more effectively, according to Paul, who holds a Ph.D. in organization and management from Yale and an M.B.A. from Cornell.

And at all costs, emotional or angry e-mails should be avoided, Paul says. For messages meant to pass on sensitive information -- or resolve a conflict or misunderstanding -- she recommends using the phone, or taking a step that can seem downright old-fashioned: meeting face to face.

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