Take charge of email and reclaim your life
Here are the first two broad steps you will take to reclaim your life from dungeons of email noise.
- Discipline yourself with email communications
- Urge discipline from others emailing you.
Now let’s get a little more specific:
- Set the frequency and time to check and respond to emails.
- Inform others of your email schedule and model appropriate discipline
- Kill “Reply All” as often as possible.
- Be clear in your subject what the e-mail is about.
Let’s break it down even further:
- Frequency – Decide how often you will check and respond to emails during the work week. Is it one, two, three or four times per day? Email works for you. Email is at your beck and call, not the other way around.
- Time – Decide when during the day you will check your emails. If you decided in step 1 that you will check and respond to emails 3 times per day, will you be checking it at 6am, noon and then 6pm? Whatever it is, you decide and you stick to it.
- Notify and Model – Let your business associates know of your new email schedule. Put in in your e-mail signature. Leave it on your voice mail greeting. The best way to begin affecting email behavior is to model the the behavior you want and, in this case, the new disciplined behavior. You can also respond to colleagues’ and associates’ poorly constructed emails with requests for improvement, “PS-Tom, I almost skipped over this e-mail. Please indicate a message is urgent in the subject line.” or “PS-Pete, my inbox is jammed, as I’m sure yours is. Unless it is absolutely necessary, can we avoid these Reply All message storms?“
- Reply All – This one feature is so often misused and abused, causing a tsunami of communications noise, frustration and lost time and money. If you are unsure if you should Reply All. Don’t. If you don’t want your group email message to start a Reply All tornado of noisy hell, send the e-mail to yourself while BCCing the recipients. They will be able to reply only to you.
- Subject – This one requires a blog all to its own, but we’ll give it a go here. Be clear in the subject line as to what the email is about, whether it’s urgent, is simply an FYI, requires action or a response, etc. If you are replying and include a new topic in your message, consider updating the subject. You can use the subject line to deliver a very brief message ending it with <EOM> (End Of Message): “Send me TPS Report Today <EOM>“
Examples of decent subject lines:
- “FYI – Update on Perkins Project”
- “Urgent/Response Needed – Jenson Meeting Tuesday”
- “Action Required – Locking up the Galt Deal”
Share your best practices in the comments section below! Let’s work together to make a better tomorrow for h2h communications!
Free Bonus #1:
People have their preferred communication tool. Score some bonus points and fast-track efficient communications by asking a new contact what their favorite form of communication is: Email, phone, text, Facebook private message, Skype, etc. Oh, yes, then use that preferred communication method with them.
Free Bonus #2:
Use the phone, text message, social media private message or voice mail to give someone a heads-up that you sent them an urgent email. Not everyone is a slave to e-mail (and soon neither will you!) Give them a heads-up if you sent them something that requires their immediate attention.
Since this article was first published, the author has been evaluating an email management system, SaneBox It is an app that learns what is important and what is not important. The more you use it, the better it learns how to manage your inbox. It’s almost like a virtual executive assistant or gatekeeper. Rob reports, “So far, so amazing!”