By LAURA T. COFFEY
Remember the promise that technology would help us save time and communicate as efficiently as possible in the workplace? Most of us wouldn't know how to survive these days without e-mail, the Internet, voice mail, faxes, pagers and cellular phones, although in some cases, such devices have tacked extra hours onto each workday. Consider these tips.
1. Take control of your day. Don't interrupt what you are doing every time you receive a message. Set aside a block or several blocks of time each day to respond to messages.
2. Don't write novels. The beauty of e-mail is that it can be used for quick reading and fast replies. If you struggle to explain yourself succinctly, contact the person in some other way.
3. Don't get personal. Avoid sending personal e-mails from work, not only because it reduces your productivity, but because it's likely that your e-mail messages are being monitored.
4. Keep your voice mail current. If you're going to be unavailable for any reason, change your voice-mail message and let people know when you will return and whom to call in your absence.
5. Let e-mail work for you. If you're taking time off, set up an automatic "out of office" reply so people will know when you'll be back and whom to contact until then.
6. Unsubscribe. Before you leave the office for an extended period, unsubscribe to any e-mail listservs on which you participate. It will help you avoid being overwhelmed by stale messages when you return.
7. Use faxes efficiently. When you receive an incoming fax, write your answers or questions directly on the fax and send it back. This prevents you from having to prepare a formal, lengthy response.
8. Limit your Internet usage. Surfing the Internet can eat up lots of time before you realize it. Set a limit of 15 minutes to search for something you need. Be sure not to visit inappropriate sites at work.
9. Get some face time. When you can, make time for face-to-face contact with co-workers, clients and customers. These people are important; don't forget what they look like.
10. Know when to tune out. If you're attending your child's soccer game or ballet recital, turn that pager and cell phone off.
-- Source: Conquer the Chaos: The Best Ideas in Time Management, Briefings Publishing Group, Alexandria, Va.
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