I understand more than anyone how difficult it can be to keep email from running your life. I’m an “Inbox Zero” kinda girl. So I thought I’d talk about some of the strategies and tools I use to keep my inbox from dictating my day, my workload and my life. Watch How To Keep Email From […]
I now spend more time in my email inbox than I do on the phone, on social media (yup!), or in meetings. Volume is a huge problem. I receive a few hundred emails a day, but I don’t think it’s just me
Blog post at Asian Efficiency - Time Management and Productivity : Let’s talk about email management - a topic no knowledge worker ever gets any coaching on. That is quite strange considering that emai[..]
10 Rules to Reverse Email Overload Spiral And Save Time: Part 3
The finish line to becoming email experts is just within reach. You’ve mastered how to respect recipient’s time, celebrated clarity, quashed open-ended questions, slashed surplus cc’s and tightened your threads. Training’s been vigorous, but you’ve made it through and now’s the time to test out your endurance for the last lap. Let’s check out the final 4 rules to reversing the email spiral as we come to the end of the Email Charter.
Rule 7: Attack Attachments
Sometimes fancy signatures or company logos at the end of your email appear as attachments to your message. Typically, when there is an attachment to an email your recipient will assume that it is something intended for them to download. Their time is wasted trying to see if there’s something to open. You can solve this problem by using a standard signature including your name, title and appropriate contact information. Or, if you still desire a distinguished signature there are sites like WiseStamp that will create unique signatures without any attachments. You can even go so far as to add a headshot.
Another attachment faux pas is attaching documents with text that could have simply been included in the body of your email. Take a few extra seconds to copy and paste the information to the message. This way you save time for your recipient and keep everything in one place.
Rule 8: Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR
Abbreviated Coded Rendition Of Name Yielding Meaning. ACRONYM. If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, give the gift of an acronym to offer a heads up to your recipients. Try putting EOM (End of Message) after your subject line so you save them the 30 seconds it takes to open an email. For example: “Staff Meeting at 9am Tuesday. EOM” You get your message across and shave a few seconds off of someone’s busy work day.
Another worthwhile acronym to test out is NNTR (No Need to Respond). Tag it on to the end of a message that requires no response. You’ve just cut an email out of their to-do list and saved yourself a click or two in your inbox. Many acronyms confuse as much as help, but these two are golden and deserve wide adoption. Hopefully it will catch on around the office and you’ll be the next workplace trendsetter.
Rule 9: Cut Contentless Responses
You’ve just adopted the NNTR method to avoiding unnecessary responses, now’s the time to follow your own system. Before you hit the send button, which can’t be undone, ask yourself “Will this make a difference?” If your response does not define or develop the conversation then take a safe bet and cut it out. You don’t need to reply to every email; especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying, “Thanks for your note. I’m in.” does not need you to reply “Great.” Unless your message engages a new direction or stimulates further response don’t bother hitting that button.
Rule 10: Disconnect!
A GradSource study reminded us that “learning occurs when what you put into short-term-memory connects with what you already know which is stored in long-term-memory.” By giving yourself a 10-minuet break every 50 minutes you have a higher rate of retaining information. When you are constantly connected to your inbox, you’re not giving yourself enough time to process all the information that you’re feeding your brain. Give yourself a break to rejuvenate and recharge. If you can’t commit to small increments throughout the day, consider calendaring half-days at work where you can’t go online or make a pledge to email-free weekends with an ‘auto-response’ that references this charter. If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we’d all get less email! Give each other a break and catch up on the things your missing when your eyes are glued to your smartphone and, don’t forget to smell the roses.
Tips to Reduce E-Mail Overload in Your Organization
According to a study by Gartner/eCompany, employees claim thаt 34% оf thе internal email theу receive іѕ unnecessary (wow). Try theѕе tips tо reduce email overload inside yоur organization.
Use informative headings
Use аn informative text message fоr thе subject line. Your reader dоesn’t еvеn havе tо spend time opening thе email. They саn read аnd delete. They gеt thе message аnd theу save time.
Use headings іn thе body оf yоur email too. Think abоut reading а newspaper. How оftеn dо уоu јuѕt scan thе headlines? The ѕame applies tо уour email. Structure yоur email logically, аnd provide а heading fоr eaсh paragraph. Your reader wіll bе ablе tо find key information quickly bу eіther scanning оr searching.
Differentiate betweеn urgent and non-urgent emails
Is уоur message critical, urgent, оr can wait? Assist your team bу flagging urgent emails (but for heaven’s sake, don’t abuse it.)
Group уоur ‘internal comms’ and send thеm аt thе ѕаmе time eасh day
A study bу Scottish universities Glasgow аnd Paisley revealed thаt ѕоme staff checked thеir in-boxes 30-40 times рer hour (admit it, you do it too!) A lot has been said about the efficiency of dealing wіth emails аt set times еach day. But what if you start sending internal communications аt thе ѕаmе time eасh day, as well?
An email aggregation tool enables internal email aggregation іnto а company newsletter. So, rаther thаn IT sending аn email update abоut а planned outage, marketing sending product information updates, аnd HR sending thеir staffing updates оut vіа email, аll of theѕе messages cаn bе consolidated іntо thе samе summary quickly аnd easily (kind of like the SaneBox daily summary).
Manage group email lists аnd dоn’t deal іn internal spam
How оftеn dо уоu оr yоur staff open аn email аnd thеn spend severаl minutes deciding іf уоu nеed tо read іt оr not? What а waste оf time аnd email storage space! Try appointing аn email gatekeeper: ѕomеоne whо knоwѕ еaсh email group, whаt information iѕ relevant to еасh group, аnd whаt еaсh group nееds tо know. The gatekeeper ensures eаch group receives оnly relevant emails.
Target уоur audience аnd make emails relevant tо them.
So whеn уоu arе writing аn email, think abоut thе people whо wіll read it. Then write tо thеm іn language thеу wіll understand. Make thе message relevant tо thеm аnd thеir role. Tell thеm whу уоu arе writing tо thеm аnd whаt yоu wаnt thеm tо know, thіnk оr do. Whether уou arе sending informative emails оr publishing аn internal magazine, уоu nеed tо knоw уоur audience.
Before уоu email, aѕk уоurѕelf “Is email thе bеѕt waу to communicate thіѕ message?”
This is probably the most important tip of all. Email іѕ uѕеd аt times tо convey sensitive оr еvеn unpleasant messages, but thіs іѕ simply nоt good practice. Examine аnd promote alternative ways оf conveying thе message. Why nоt uѕe а staff meeting instead, so that questions can be addressed live instead of in a long email thread?
The Email Charter: 10 Rules to Reverse the Email Overload Spiral: Part 2
Previously we revisited the lost endeavor of “paying it forward” and integrating the idea into daily email rituals. We evaluated our email communication and what we could do on our end to make life a little easier for the recipients of our messages. Now that we’ve mastered how to respect each others time, let’s keep pushing to become email Samaritans.
As promised, here are the next three steps of the Email Charter.
Rule 4: Quash Open-Ended Questions
After reading an elaborate email stuffed with long paragraphs of turgid text, the last thing the reader wants to be bothered with is a dubious question like, “Thoughts?” While your intentions are only to help ease the readers mind, remember you’ve just packed a thirty-minute phone call into an email. The best way to provide a comforting valediction is to give clear options for the recipient if they choose to seek your help. Email generosity requires simplifying, easy-to-answer questions. “Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying right out of it?!”
Rule 5: Slash Surplus cc’s
Have you ever been somewhere where the conversation is rolling and you thought to yourself, “No one would notice if I wasn’t here?” After the main points of the exchange were made, you felt no need to participate in the ongoing discussion. You could easily slip away and the focus of the group wouldn’t drift in the slightest; much like being cc’d on messages unrelated to anything of your concern. Being cc’d on an initially relevant message is no problem. However, receiving emails from fellow cc’ers who have carelessly chosen ‘Reply All’ is like being stuck at an office party where the conversation and the open bar have run dry. From the start, for every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Cut the superfluous. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.
Rule 6: Tighten the Thread
How amazing would it be if we could click “remove” and instantly shed ten pounds? Unfortunately, loosing weight isn’t as easy as getting rid of excess threads. Relieve the build up of email threads to focus on what’s relevant. It’s rare that a thread should extend beyond three emails. If emailing starts to turn into texting, pick up the phone and make the call. Emails should be used for questions or notifications that require simple responses. Once emails begin to convert to ambiguous discourses nothing is being accomplished. Trim the weight of your email threads to stay on track and reduce scrolling through outdated information. Think of your email threads as a tight rope and you are a tight rope walker. To be effective you need to be focused and concise with no superfluous information. Tighten the content of your messages by eliminating extraneous threads this way you keep your rope tight and so there’s less risk of falling off (topic).
If you add these three tips along with the last edition’s tips you’ll become a pro at keeping emails and content to a minimum while keeping your context focused. Coupled with some handy tools for keeping e-mail overload under control in your own inbox, you should be all set. Stay tuned for the next 4 tips to Reversing the Email Spiral.
The Email Charter: 10 Rules to Reverse the Email Overload Spiral: Part 1
Have you seen “Pay it Forward”, a Kevin Spacey movie from 2000? If you have, there’s no doubt you were inspired to adopt this karma-generating lifestyle of doing good deeds for our immediate circle, hoping it would spread and catch on universally. But let’s be honest, that movie came out twelve years ago and since then our time has been radically monopolized by keeping up with day-to-day issues. At a time when the personal computer had just become affordable we weren’t yet being bombarded with email overload and the guilt of not responding to a message. The idea is to make life a little easier for someone else. Since we are all glued to our smartphones and in constant contact with the people we email, why not challenge ourselves to “Pay it Forward” to make life simpler and emailing less aggravating.
This is the basic concept behind the Email Charter, created by Chris Anderson, the curator of TED. The Email Charter is a list of 10 ways to reverse the (daunting) email spiral. If you carry out these steps in your daily email habits, your recipients will appreciate you and you’ll start to see them catching on to your philanthropic email skills.
Rule 1: Respect Recipients Time
This is the guiding principle behind the Email Charter. A technology market research firm has predicted that in the year 2013 there will be 507 billion emails sent a day. With always being pulled in different directions whether it be at work, with the family, or all of our grocery list of obligations, there’s no way we can process that amount of information. This is where we rally the troops and fight to make email easier for everyone. The war has to start with someone, and today you are that email-battling solider. It is your duty as the message sender to minimize the time your email will take to process, even if it means taking more time on your end before sending. Discover your intention, articulate it clearly and before you commit to sending proofread and tie up things you’ve left open-ended.
Rule 2: Short or Slow is not Rude
Remember when people used to write each other letters? Each line was written with intention and no questions were left unanswered if in response to another letter. With the instant gratification of hitting the send button and the pat on the back of “your message has been sent” by the anonymous voice of your inbox, we’ve become accustomed to needing to reply to every message the instant it lands in our inbox. And in return we’ve adopted the expectation that everyone else should respond in the same Speedy Gonzales fashion. Let’s mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we’re all facing, it’s OK if replies take a while coming and if they don’t give detailed responses to all your questions. Give your recipient a heads up if you’re only providing answers to a portion of their questions. Or, put it away and get back to it when you do. Your recipient would much more appreciate a purposeful response than a perfunctory remedy.
Rule 3: Celebrate Clarity
Slow and steady may win the race but short, sweet and well-thought-out is a sure crowd pleaser. It’s getting harder and harder to keep people’s attention. If we slim down the fluff and get right to the meat we can avoid the risk of loosing our audience. The strategy is to condense your email content to get directly to the point you are addressing. Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens], or [Low Priority]. By doing this you can prepare your recipient for what is expected of them in response. That way you leave no room for missed deadlines or lost content.
If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. From there, keep every line crisp and muddle-free. Your email doesn’t have to shoot fireworks, sing and dance to hook and reel your reader. There’s no need for different colors or strange fonts, although bolding key words/messages points the reader to what’s truly important . Simplicity and clarity gets rid of any confusion or the dreaded virus of “miscommunication.” Know what you’re going to say before you type it, this way you can be sure to be clear and direct with each statement. When your presentation is of this quality, it sets the bar for what is to be anticipated in return.
Adopt these 3 routines and watch your web of social contacts develop the same sense of pride in their email communication and management. “Pay it Forward” right from your inbox. Stay tuned for the next 7 tips to Reversing the Email Spiral.