My 5 Best Tips for Effective Email

Tue, May 1st, 2012 | Tags: email tips work office time management

Recently, there have been a glut of blog posts about how to manage your in box, with some hilarious infographics. Everything from abstaining, to moving to twitter only. I’ve given quite a few of these strategies a go, as a few months back I was diagnosed with RSI. So here are my 5 tips to help manage your time, get the most important stuff done, and take care of your precious wrists.

#1 Check Email 3 Times Per Day
Yep, you’ve heard it a hundred times before. It requires outstanding self-discipline, but the results are also outstanding. After the first few days of cold turkey - you will get over that constant desire (read: habit) to check your in box. I challenge you to try it for a single week and see how you do. Tell the important folks in your life what’s happening and to ‘call/text’ you if they need something urgently. It’s as much about training your colleagues as training yourself.

Personally, I’m trying 9-9:30am when I drink a morning coffee, 1-1:30pm just around lunch time and 5-5:30pm before I’m thinking about the day ending.

Lastly, these words made a big impression on me “Checking your email every few minutes is modern day vanity”. Boom — that spoke to my ego!

#2 Keep it Short
Another hard one I know… but email just wasn’t meant for long form. That’s what Word, Google docs, or whatever word processing / spreadsheet tool you like is for! For sure, having painful wrists and fingers from RSI has taught me brevity the hard way - but I’d encourage you to do the same before your own carpel tunnel starts acting up.

And if your recipients don’t have so much to read, they will respond to you faster. Its easier for everyone. You’ll be doing yourself a favor twice over.

Getting crisper and to the point is something we all need to work on.

#3 Be Clear on Asks
If you are asking for a deliverable in your email, make it clear it’s a deliverable. Make it easy for your recipient to follow what you want. Sounds simple, but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to read an email several times to really grok what someone was asking of me.

I’d recommend:
Making it bold, underlining, have a header, try italics, use whatever HTML you have in your email program — and don’t forget to set a time and time for deadline.

For example:

*Action Needed*

Please read this blog post and check for spelling and grammatical mistakes by end of business day (6pm PT) on Wednesday May 2. Please send all feedback to me directly via email.

#4 Don’t Hit Reply All
We have all been guilty of this in the past. Whether we meant to or not, replying all which includes folks that don’t need to be on cc is just plain rude. I recently read that it takes 15 seconds to digest an email that you realize wasn’t meant for you. Getting 10-20 emails per day that aren’t intended for your in box can soon add up.

I often starting using bcc when email threads get unweildly with a ton of folks on there.

Be courteous and only send an email to the people who need to be on that distribution.

#5 Don’t Email
Email isn’t the be all and end all, but we’ve come to rely on it as ‘the’ main communication channel at work. Truth be told, problems can be solved faster, and life can be more fun when you meet in person, or simply call. Next time you’re about to write a long email (Read: don’t! See #2), pick up the phone. I am positive you’ll get a faster result and make a connection with a work colleague.

Also try IM, Twitter etc. but be careful not to fall into the same email trap with these channels. It’s more about self-control and thoughtfulness than finding a super new tool.

You’ll note my 5 tips aren’t anything you haven’t heard before, but so many of us continue to fall into the email procrastination trap, be inconsiderate or inconsequential. It’s all down to you and what you allow to happen. And remember: “Checking your email is modern day vanity”!

» Let me know what works for your and if you try any of my 5 tips let me know how it’s going!

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