Friday, January 13, 2012

Tips To Stop The Email Monster

 
I see a lot of articles come past on Twitter on 'how to get your inbox to zero' and wonder why anyone would bother - don't they have Gmail? I guess not. But really the big issue with email becoming a stressor in our life is not just the number of emails we receive. Sometimes it is the quality of the emails as much as it is the number.

It would be useful for businesses to spend some energy and effort in creating good protocols to teach employees to use for sending internal email. Having someone at the next desk email you and clutter up your inbox with something they could as easily asked you is just stupid. And happens all too often. If you do that - stop it. Get up and go ask. There's one less email and one less response to that email that you will have boomerang back to you.

Learn to filter your email so that you can easily locate emails from people who are likely to send important regular emails from those who send you cute pictures of cats and chain letters in oversize pink font. If you are using Gmail then this is less an issue as you can easily search for emails from that person. Here are some instructions for setting up rules in Outlook (that's how you filter the email - the rules 'tell' Outlook what to do with emails from people according to the rules you want to apply).

Start improving your email by getting better at the email that you send. Before sending just check through these elements before your email leaves your computer.

Email Checklist - Ask yourself...

Do you really need to send that email? Is there a better way to get that information by asking directly or making a call? Or do you already have that information available to you some other way? Remember when you send an unnecessary email you are adding to the clutter in their inbox, and probably adding more to your own with responses that will come.

Summarising the reason for the email in the header means that this email can be easily located again if need be by topic. It also makes it faster to see that the topic is not urgent, or is urgent (to you) and needs priority attention.

Getting clear in laying out the email - one topic per email stops the message being confused and other issues missed.  Have you included all you need for them to be able to take action? Double check and only send when you are confident that you have everything included that is needed. Ensure the attachment, if there is one, is attached and that it is a common file extension that they will be able to open. Commonly .TIFF files are not easy to open on the average computer and pictures are often easier to open for non technical people if they are .JPG or .PNG files. If you are sending photographs then compressing these makes for much easier email receipt.Compressing just makes the file size smaller so it 'weighs less' when it is being sent.

A common issue that I see from time-to-time is whole lists of people being copied with their email addresses showing. This is poor practice and exposes everyone on the list to spammers harvesting their email addresses. Sending via the BCC field means that they get the copy but without exposing their address.


Summary


  • Ask first - do I need to send this email or can I just ask directly?
  • Should I get this information by email so I have a hard copy of the answer (which may be copied to other applications to save time)
  • Have I summarised the subject in the Header so the recipient will know what this is about?
  • Have I restated any question that was asked to which I am replying so the recipient will know to which topic what my message relates?
  • Have I included all the information they need to respond?
  • Have I attached any files that need to go with the email?
  • Have I made it clear what the call to action is so that the recipient can understand and act?
  • Have I set the email out so as to make it easy to read and understand?
  • Have I confined this email to be about one topic only?
  • Is there a contact number for me on the email?
  • If no response is required, have I stated this on the email?
  • Have you only included copies to people who actually need to see this?
  • Are your copies being sent BCC?
 Most people are sensible with their email but occasionally we will find someone who repeatedly sends us emails that make no sense, or invariably result in a back-and-forth email relay to clarify a point that could have (should have) been clarified in the first email, or by phone. If you have a special person in your life who does this you may like to ask them to help you by sharing this checklist with them. A few kind words once may save you multiple episodes of wasted time throughout the year and those minutes add up!

Of course if you have business, then setting up a good procedure and training your staff in how to use email effectively will increase productivity, reduce unneccessary anxiety and mean a lot less wasted manhours on nonsense.





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