Are you part of the problem, or the solution? asks Marsha Egan
People complain about all the e-mail they receive and how much work it is for them to handle. And it is true, the number of e-mails being sent is definitely on the rise and adds an incredible amount of work to our already overflowing plates.
The reality is there are quite a number of things that you can do, personally, to keep your incoming e-mail volume to a minimum which will greatly improve your productivity. After all, the less email you receive, the less you will have to handle. Here are a few tips:
How much email do you send? Solution: Send less e-mail. While this may seem a no-brainer, e-mail begets e-mail. Sometimes it is better and easier to pick up the phone, or to just not respond. Just remember, the more you send, the more you’ll receive.
Do you send an email when a conversation is needed? Solution: Pick up the phone. Closely related to the point above, some things are better discussed. Email is a one way communication, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t make it a dialogue. If dialogue is needed, choose the voice option rather than the email option, then confirm by email. It will take less time overall.
How often do you “Reply All?” Solution: Stop “Reply All.” Yes, I said stop. ‘Reply All’ makes everyone groan. Instead of taking the easy path of hitting the ‘Reply All’ button, look at the names of those copied, and select who really needs to see your response. If I had my preferences, I’d eliminate the ‘Reply All’ button from everyone’s email. Many times, it is just the sender who needs the response. Just think of all the unnecessary emails you’ll save for others!
Feel the need to reply or forward? Solution: Let it go! Stop the thread. Sometimes, you can and should be the one to let the email thread die. There are some emailers who just can’t be the last. I call these “email flippers.” They can’t let an email message thread end with them. If you receive a link to an article of interest to you, enjoy it. You don’t really need to wrack your brain to think of someone else who will like it.
Do you write long email messages? Solution: The shorter the better. The reality is that most people skim. They will read the first line, and you risk losing their attention after that. The shorter your message, the more chance all of it will be read. And at minimum, place your most important information at the top of the email.
Do you send emails when you are upset, emotional, hurt, angry? Solution: Keep emotion out of your email messages. When you engage in an emotional discussion via e-mail, the e-mails will fly. And most likely, they get heated. And if you think you can mask your feelings, think again. Emotional issues should never be handled by e-mail; a phone call or person to person handling of the situation is best. I like to say that “email is for facts, not feelings.”
Do you ask opinions of several people by email? Solution: Don’t—Call a meeting instead. Email is not an effective way to brainstorm. Closely related to the ‘Reply All’ discussion above, several people weighing in will creates threads that develop tentacles and overwhelm each recipient’s inbox. When you want to request feedback and opinions, a blog or a chat room is much more effective at showing each person’s response all in one place than trying to coordinate opinion responses from multiple emails.
While each one of these may save only a small amount of time and reduce your e-mail only by a few, collectively, they have potential to vastly improve your control over the number of e-mails you receive. E-mail is here to stay; the sooner you develop productive habits regarding its use, the more time you will have for what is really important in your life.