By Harold Taylor
Contrary to the popular belief that most junk mail ends up in the wastebasket unopened, it doesn't - at least not until it has grabbed your attention and consumed some of your time. To increase the likelihood of your perusing these unsolicited mailings, such ploys are used as personalized envelopes, "live" stamps, return postage, teaser copy, red ink, creative copy, and a personalized, conversational tone.
Direct-mail consultants spend their time devising new ways of getting you to spend your own time - and money - on various products and services offered. Although I don't recommend you throw out all junk mail unopened, since much of it could be useful and profitable, you should be selective. If you recognize from the envelope that the product the product or service is one you don't need or want, discard it unopened. Otherwise, you'll be trapped into sorting through the interesting, colorful inserts that are designed to capture your interest.
It can become very time-consuming when the direct marketers don't take the trouble to eliminate duplication. If you receive two or three identical envelopes from the same mailer, take a minute to scribble "Return to sender" on the unopened envelope. On the duplicates, add the statement "please remove name from mailing list." Or have a self-inking stamp made up that says it for you.
Unsolicited material can be valuable, keep you updated on what's new on the market, and give you some great ideas for increasing productivity in your firm. But it is also designed to attract your attention. So spend as little time on it as possible. Be ruthless with those you open. If their value is in doubt at all, scrap them quickly. Resist the urge to read further or hold them over until later. And don't circulate the material to others unless you can see immediate use for it. When you do send material to others, note exactly what you want done and whether the material should be retained or scrapped.
File material you want to retain; but not in a permanent file system. Place it in a follow-up file or idea file for future action. Record the reason you are keeping it. Discard inserts that are unnecessary and staple the other material together. Don't file loose or paper clipped material. On the pre-determined date, review it and take action. Resist the urge to re-file it. If you don't have time to do anything about it or have second thoughts about its value, scrap it. Err on the side of tossing too much, never too little.
If you find the junk mail is consuming too much time, and keeping you from the priority items, have it separated from the other materials and placed in a folder of its own. Then, regardless of when you review your mail, leave the folder until the end. If you have used up your allocated mail time without having gone through the junk mail, no harm done. Leave it until tomorrow.
You might even leave the folder of junk mail until fifteen minutes before quitting time. You are normally winding down by then, and in no mood for priority tasks that require mental alertness. With only junk mail standing between you and the evening meal or leisure time, you tend not to dawdle over those eye-appealing folders. The secret is to review all junk mail, but do it quickly, without allowing it to infringe on priority time that could be used for priority tasks.
George Torok Host of Business in Motion Business Speaker
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