Be forewarned: there’s a growing backlash against email, due in part to the growth of smartphones. Smartphones make it easy, convenient and practically unavoidable to disregard work-related messages at all hours of the day and night. In fact a recent study found that professionals, managers and executives who carry smartphones for work interact with work 13.5 hours a day. That’s probably a lot of unnecessary email.
So if you’re like everyone else you’re being bombarded by email too. How do you avoid getting sucked into emails that you don’t need to? And better yet, how do you ensure that the emails you send are seen, opened and responded to?
Let’s tackle that last question —how do you get your emails to rise to the top? Here are a few basic rules:
- Be concise in your subject line. In short, tell the recipients what the email is about. Don’t be cute or coy, and if it’s important or time sensitive, say so.
- Send it to the appropriate recipients. Don’t copy (or blind copy) the world just so people see what you’re doing. Does your boss really need to receive that email? If not, don’t include her. Large numbers of recipients only invites never-ending email chains as people feel compelled to add their thoughts and comments — often unneeded. And one more thought — draft the email while the “TO” line is blank to avoid sending prematurely.
- Get to the point. While there’s no need to be terse, get into the subject matter of the email quickly. Be sure to be mindful of your tone; you know what you mean but seeing the words on the screen without your voice saying them can lead to different interpretations. And if your email is long, put it in a Word document and send as an attachment so the content isn’t stuck in email format.
- Format the email so it’s easy to read. You can use bold, italics, underline and colors to highlight key points, and be sure to check spelling and grammar. It’s easy to undercut your message by poor presentation in an email.
Of course, depending on the situation it may be best to consider not even sending an email at all. Sometimes the personal touch is better and saves time! Make a good ole fashioned phone call, or walk down the hall and chat in person with a colleague. Admittedly, that feels a little old school, but because it’s so unexpected these days it has a strong impact.
Now, as to the other point — how not to get sucked needlessly into emails… Be judicious in which emails you open and when. Just a quick glance usually can tell you if you need to keep reading an email right then, or if it can be put away for later. Be sure to prioritize business and personal emails differently; that is, review personal emails at set times during the work day, and categorize work emails so you respond to priority ones first.
You won’t change your company’s email policies and habits overnight, but if you make it clear that this is your working style others will catch on. Or better yet, send this link to your colleagues so they see how you’re treating your emails now, and encourage them to follow suit. You know what they say: the first step is the hardest…