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 OName 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-minute 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.

SaneBox prioritize important emails


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 email management. “Pay it Forward” right from your inbox. Stay tuned for the next 7 tips to Reversing the Email Spiral.