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Mute The Mail

Tips for filtering your e-mail noise.

VOLUME. IT’S A sign of a healthy business — unless it’s e-mail. Contending with a barrage of daily e-mail messages can sap your productivity. Gary Oppenheimer knows all about it. Oppenheimer is a messaging agent for MCI Mail and the president of New York-based Oppenheimer Software, which creates customized electronic messaging software and troubleshoots messaging problems for companies, including clients of MCI Mail. He receives about 200 e-mails a day. Out of necessity, he employs several tricks to navigate the waves of incoming mail.


“First,” he says, “I don’t exchange a lot of personal mail.” He communicates with family and friends the old-fashioned way — on the phone.

Oppenheimer knows he won’t be able to read every e-mail while traveling. He has his messages forwarded automatically to an associate, who responds to most of them and forwards the important ones to Oppenheimer’s laptop. A sophisticated package such as Z-Mail for Internet mail will let you set up automatic forwarding to someone in your office before you head to the airport.

If you can’t find a coworker to handle your messages while you’re traveling, several mailing services will page you when you receive e-mail. MCI Mail, for example, can be combined with SkyTel’s paging service to alert you when an e-mail arrives. The setup gives you the first 150 characters of the message so you can quickly determine if it requires your immediate attention.

Oppenheimer contends it’s worth a day or two to set up software that helps manage your daily traffic. A software package such as Eudora Pro or Z-Mail enables you to sort incoming messages into the appropriate folders. The first step is to establish prefixes that flag the message’s content. For example, if Oppenheimer gets an e-mail that has a “+” prefix in the subject heading (a message regarding a budget issue), it’s automatically filtered to his budget folder. An FYI in the subject heading indicates that he can delay reading the message; PAN, for “prompt action needed,” speaks for itself. When sending messages, you can also tell people to put certain subject headings or titles on their replies — that way the return message can be routed automatically to the right mail folder.

Coordinates: Gary Oppenheimer can be e-mailed at