Make a Dent in Email Overload
Practicing email etiquette will help you and your recipients reduce email overload. Before you know it, better email habits will reduce the flurry of messages going back and forth, your messages will be clearer and have more meaning, and your recipients will be able to answer more thoroughly.
- Protect the privacy of the recipients with Bcc. If you’re sending a message to a group of people, send it to yourself and blind copy (Bcc) everyone else. You’ll protect the privacy of everyone’s email address and you’ll prevent a Reply to All fiasco (with Bcc, if a person clicks Reply to All, only the originator receives it).
- Make your subject line sizzle. Your subject line should read like the headline in a newspaper. The recipient should know precisely what your message is about just by reading the subject line. It should always match the message.
- Add a salutation. Always greet the person you’re writing with Hi Mary, Dear John, Hello John, etc. Otherwise, your email will come across as an order, especially if you’re making a request.
- Remind the recipients of who you are. If you’ve met someone once or it’s been awhile since you’ve reached out to them, remind them of previous encounters.
- Treat email as a business letter. Email should receive the same treatment as a letter on your company’s stationery. If you wouldn’t put smiley faces, ivy growing down the side, shorthand as in an instant message, etc., in a letter, then don’t do it in email. Proper grammar, capitalizations, and punctuation should be standard.
- Be brief but be clear. Spend time crafting a well thought-out email and get to the point quickly. Use bullets if you’re making several points so the message can be quickly scanned. Put any deadlines in a bold font near the top and bottom of your message.
- Thank people in advance. You can reduce email overload if you simply thank people in advance. Then you won’t feel compelled to send a useless one-word thank you email later.
- Avoid receiving numerous useless replies. When you send a message to a group, add at the top and bottom of the message whether you need a reply (e.g., NRN for no reply necessary).
- Keep the body of the previous email with your answer. Set your email software to include the previous message when you reply. Don’t make the originator have to go back to figure out what they asked you for.
- Answer within 48 hours. An email message is not a 9-1-1 call, but it should be answered within a reasonable time. Your company should set this standard.
- Think before you send. Read the message before you reply, giving the sender everything they’ve requested. If you’re in a meeting with your PDA under the table, you’re not going to send a good answer. Wait until you’re back at your desk and can think more clearly. And don’t answer any messages when you’re upset.
Start practicing better habits and etiquette today and keep me posted on your progress.
Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta
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I'm a productivity and technology speaker, trainer, author, and consultant. I own The Digital Breakthroughs Institute in Atlanta GA.
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I’ve always wondered why anyone would want to “keep their nose to the grindstone.” Taken either literally or figuratively, it’s a dangerous thing to do.
While the literal danger is easy enough to figure out, the figurative may need some explaining.
In times of challenges, companies are often guided to go back to the basics; “keep their heads down” and focus on the here and now. While doing the one thing you do best, and doing it better than anyone else, seems to make sense, it’s also a great way to miss out on both opportunities and new competitors.
That’s because the phrase “turbulent times” doesn’t translate into “everything is standing still.” Your savvy competitors are probably very busy. They’re looking for opportunities being driven by the changes happening in the marketplace. They’re looking for ways to innovate, leap frog, if not eliminate, the industry leaders, and perhaps even change the industry all together.
One great example of not standing still is Ray Anderson, the founder and former CEO of Interface Carpets. Preparing for a motivational speech on the company’s approach to the environment, Ray realized the most he could say for what his carpet company was doing was “following the law.”
Instead of accepting that as acceptable, he started to look for different ways of doing things. What he found was his own passion to change how things were done, a passion that ultimately led to becoming a pioneer in the industry. A pioneer that created the industry of the green office, streamlined its costs, increased customer loyalty, and jump-started employee morale.
Well ahead of regulations and his competitors, Ray implemented strategies for waste reduction, recycling, and energy efficiency. And in the process his sales went up 49 percent and he created a new benchmark for his competitors.
I recommend companies continually scan their environment for opportunities. Turbulent times bring unique challenges that can become industry-changing innovations if you remember to keep your head up and constantly look and think about what is not only in front of you, but also on either side and coming up behind! After all, keeping your nose to the grindstone, simply results in a disfigured nose…
Elaine Eisenman, Guest Blogger
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