Emails: A Blessing and a Curse
Emails – can’t live with em, can’t live without em. Especially in the technology space, a great majority of our day to day communication flows through email, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, email allows us to effectively document all points, and affords people the flexibility to communicate on their own schedules. On the flipside, it also eliminates the benefits of in-person “face time” where more productive discussions can flesh out points, uncover new ideas, and most importantly the volume of emails we receive on a day to day basis is often unmanageable. Here are some tips to utilize email as effectively as possible:
- Always put a signature on professional emails. Often people will need to call to follow up on what you wrote, or may not know who you are. An effective signature with your name, company, email address, and phone # will help streamline future communication through other channels.
- Don’t include an automatic valediction in your signature (ie Thanks, All the Best, Sincerely) as they often may be inappropriate to the email content itself. The salutation used should be based on the actual content of the email.
- Always include a subject line in your emails so that the recipients have a good idea what the general theme of the email is. If you receive an email without a subject that requires response, always good to update accordingly when you reply. If the email thread goes off topic, change the subject line to something more relevant. Do not make the subject of the email the body of the emails. A subject should never be more than 5/6 words describing the content contained within.
- Make your email a work of art. Proofread before sending and focus on formatting. How an email looks effects how it is received and perceived. If you write in ALL CAPS people will think you are yelling at them. If you use different fonts/sizes/colors it looks messy. If you avoid punctuation/spacing/paragraphs your points will not be clear.
- Avoid lengthy email bodies. Whenever someone sees a long email, 1 of 2 things will happen (a) they will ignore it (b) they will miss the key points. Try keeping all emails to 4 paragraphs or less. If it needs to be more, there should always be some offline communication to review with the key recipients to make sure everything is understood. If you are sending along a 28 bullet pointed list, probably best to attach to the email, instead of putting in the body.
- Use the CC and BCC fields. Whenever sending an email to a larger group, it can be confusing who is the intended responder. Those recipients should be placed in the TO field, and anyone who is on the thread for background information/FYI nature should go in the CC. Use the BCC field if you don’t need the recipient to be on all ensuing responses.
- Organize your Inbox. Set up folders for all projects, email types, etc based on your usage. For example, as a project manager I create separate folders for all my accounts. Once I have reviewed/responded accordingly from my Inbox, I move all these emails into the correct client folder. As COO, I also have folders for all sorts of internal responsibilities, ie resource questions, quote requests/feedback, company outings, etc.
- Dedicate time to review emails. Every day I try to allocate at least 30 minutes (usually right when I get in to the office) to review all open emails. Anything that requires a response/further action is flagged, so that I continuously have a list of what I need to address in the day ahead while filtering out those emails where I was just on the CC to be informed. Much easier to look at a list of 15 flagged emails instead of 100 unread.