Our time study research indicates that employees spend 3.3 hours per week on miscellaneous email messages that are not connected with any of their main projects. That’s a massive amount of time that could easily be reduced. Here are some tips for handling email better.
PLANNING TO WRITE EMAIL
- If you are concerned about the volume of email you receive, remember, it’s not them, it’s all of us who are guilty. If you send out 2 emails, and copy 20 people on each, you have contributed to the glut of email by sending out 40 emails yourself!
- Do not copy people needlessly. Ask yourself why you are copying everyone – if it is to make you look good, it probably is not necessary.
- Ask employees who report to you not to cc you, unless they include a short note explaining why they are copying you.
- Hire someone to go through your email when you are on vacation and eliminate what is obviously unnecessary.
- Use the phone instead of sending an email. If you find yourself typing a lot and telling a “story”, then it is better to call.
- It is very difficult to convince others through email, especially when you know that they already have entrenched positions. Find another way.
- The best use of email is for short transactions: “Here is the document you requested,” “When is the meeting?”, “Can you provide an answer to a question”, etc.
- Just say no. If you’re on a mailing list for which you have no interest, reply by unsubscribing.
- Unsubscribe from newsletters. If you want to learn something, take a course. If you are hoping that occasionally some useful tidbit will come through on a newsletter, then you are wasting your time. Unsubscribe.
- Check the spelling of your email before sending it. Spelling errors seem generally accepted in email. But go beyond acceptable. Aim for excellence.
- DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS. This is perceived as shouting.
- Re-read your email before sending it. Writing quickly often results in awkward grammar.
- Consider carefully what you write; it’s a permanent record and can be easily forwarded to others. Never accuse people, call them names, suggest they aren’t being smart or criticize their spelling. Assume their intentions are genuine and that they are good people. Be polite and assertive if necessary (i.e. to spammers) but not vindictive.
- Write succinctly.
- Write descriptive subject lines. Many busy people will only open messages with captivating subject lines. Think creatively.
- If you must forward a message, put your comments at the top.
- Do not keep all of your messages in your mail box folder. Create new mail folders with names that categorize your mail and move messages into them. Thus, new mail is quicker to find.
- Create folders for : Things to do, Upcoming Events, Manager Issues, Subordinate Issues, Reading, Family, and folders for each of your major customers.
- Be careful with punctuation. A lot of periods can separate thoughts….. but use a lot of exclamation marks and it looks like you’re angry!!!!!!!!!! How does a line of question marks look ??????? You might not intend strong emotion, but the other person might think you do.
- Avoid cyber-speak. Not everyone is familiar with the cute acronyms used in Email correspondence, such as IMHO (in my humble opinion) or FWIW (for what it’s worth). Performing a mental translation each time slows down the reader. Do not make reading difficult for them.