Email is one of the technological innovations that has transformed the way that we work. But as with most technology, it can only ever be as useful as we allow it to be. It’s a bit like dog training. Most trainers will tell you that it isn’t the dog that needs training; it is their owner. So this is our attempt to train you to master your emails:
1. Don’t Prevaricate
Don’t allow your emails to become another form of prevarication or distraction. A day spent answering emails is not necessarily a productive day. Limit the amount of time you check your emails, and turn off any visual or audio notification systems. Your emails are there for you to check when you have time to focus on them – they should not be a siren call distracting you from your work.
2. Lead By Example
If you want to limit the number of emails that you are receiving then you need to lead by example, and try and encourage your organisation to develop an email protocol. Be clear and short in your communication. Don’t CC everyone in unless they really need to be copied in. Be clear about why you are sending the email and what response you are looking for. If possible give people a reasonable timeframe to respond in. Give yourself a reminder to check that they have responded.
3. Talk To People
Don’t email someone sat at the next desk or in a neighbouring office when you could just pop your head around the door and ask them a question. Face-to-face contact is good! Some organisations have a regular day when emails are discouraged and people are encouraged to speak to each other instead.
4. Pick Up The Phone
If it is urgent, pick up the phone. Don’t presume that people are going to be seeing your email and responding to it immediately.
5. Don’t Send Emails At Night
Ok, so you are working at 10 o’clock at night – but do you really have to let everyone else know that by sending out emails at that time? Night-time emails do not make you look dedicated and hard working – they make you look disorganised and unprofessional (unless you are working across time zones). Write the emails at this time if you have to – but save in your draft box and send them out during office hours. This is particularly important if you are sending emails to staff you are managing. Don’t encourage a culture of out of hour’s emails.
6. Don’t Send In Haste
Never send an email in haste. If you have any doubt about an email, save it in draft and give yourself 24 hours to think about it. Once that email has been sent there is no getting it back.
7. By Professional
Always presume that your email will be forwarded on to other people. Write your emails in a professional and considered way. Never gossip, or say anything in an email that you wouldn’t stand up in front of a group of your colleagues, clients or customers and say.
8. Don’t Clog Up Inboxes
Try not to send large attachments with your email it just clogs up people’s inboxes. Look at ways of storing the emails in a shared file and sending the link. This is particularly useful if you are asking people to comment on the document – by using a shared file everyone can comment on the same document and you don’t have the nightmare task of version control.
9. Separate Work and Personal Email Accounts
Separate out your work and personal emails. Have different accounts for both. Don’t use your work email address for making personal purchases or signing up to on-line groups and websites. It looks unprofessional. Combining the 2 email accounts also makes it impossible to monitor your personal emails whilst on holiday or at the weekends, without having to check you work emails.
10. Learn To File
Learn how to file your emails and search for them. Use the subject box to give an accurate description of the content. If the focus changes during a long stream of emails then change the subject box.
All common sense stuff, but all stuff that we can forget as we try to cope with the avalanche of emails that come our way. Instead of bemoaning the number of emails you receive, lead by example and show other people how they can send professional, effective, targeted emails that don’t just litter up other people’s inboxes.