Email overload is that mess that’s packed and stacked in your Inbox…hundreds and thousands of messages that you scroll through every day. You can lighten the load if you stop using your Inbox for storage and also think through every message you handle.
My solutions that work are outlined in my book, Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007. Here is a recent testimonial I received from Suzette Eaddy, Director of Conferences for the National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc., in New York.
I am forcing myself to put Conquer Email Overload down and go to bed. I am up to page 74. I have flagged and highlighted many items. I can’t wait to finish it…I have made several changes to my laptop and can’t wait to get to work on Monday to make the same changes on my desktop...I knew that I wasn’t taking advantage of Outlook’s full potential but I didn’t realize how much of a difference a few, quick changes could make. This book is invaluable.
This post focuses on improving email etiquette. It’s important because it 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.