Is Email Taking Over Your Life?

During a film shoot in Tucson, Arizona for a new Internet project, I woke up at 4am unable to sleep.  So as millions do when our sleep is interrupted, I got up and started wading through my cluttered email inbox.  Email consumes enormous amounts of time (some studies indicate that 40% of a typical employee’s day is spent sending and receiving email).  Yet we rarely think about strategies to use it more effectively.  In addition, research shows that a significant amount of email is misinterpreted, leading to embarrassment and sometimes being fired.  A few simple guidelines can keep you from wasting enormous time, and protect you from humiliation, frustration, and even legal issues.  So try out these ideas and see if you can begin to gain some ground in the daily email war:

1.  Never say anything in an email that you wouldn’t want known publicly.  Once you hit the “send” button, you’ve lost control and you never know who will see it.  A single inappropriate email can haunt you for years to come.  So never criticize anyone – especially clients, customers, or associates through email.  If you must be explicit with someone or evaluate their performance, do it in person or on the phone.  In person is always best method for serious conversations.

2.  Copy the right people – especially when communicating to clients or on business.  Cc’ing shows the clients you are working as a team.  Also, people can’t do an “end run” on an issue when they see others have already read it.  Copying the right people keeps everyone in the loop and updated – plus, saves having to send multiple messages.

3.  Don’t over email.  Make sure you actually need to respond so you don’t clutter up your mailboxes with unnecessary fluff.  For instance, stop sending messages that just say “thanks.”  People assume you received it.  And whatever you do, please don’t forward all those cute stories, inspirational moments, or jokes.  They waste enormous time, distract us, and bog down our day.

4.  Be very clear, concise, and to the point.  That’s what I love about email.  You don’t have to endure the pleasantries of phone conversation: “How’s the family?”  “How’s business?”  Just get to the point and move on.

5.  A good policy is not to check your email first thing in the morning.  When you first sit down at your desk, do the most important thing you have to do that day.  Get it out of the way, or at least get it started.  THEN, check your email.  Your productivity will shoot up.

6.  Don’t over check your email. Turn off the reminders that tell you when a new message comes in, and instead, set aside times during the day to deal with it.  If you’re not careful, over-checking can consume your entire day.  Don’t forget that the phone is often more efficient in dealing with something important.  Also, train people that you don’t necessarily respond to emails right away.  If it’s critical, they should call.

7.  Lastly – when it comes to mobile devices, learn to put it down.  Remember how annoyed you get at the store with the clerk makes you stand there waiting while she talks to someone on the phone?  That’s the way others feel when you’re constantly checking your mobile device.  In my opinion, the most valuable commodity of the 21st century will be “undivided attention.”  Want to share an incredible gift with a loved one, business associate, co-worker or friend?  Give them your undivided attention.  Trust me – in today’s distracted culture, it will transform your relationships.

 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 at 8:01 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • j a n

    If I could add 1 thing that radically improves email usage: put tho topic in the subject line. Rather than “hey” or “got a question” as subject, make it “question about Smith project deadline.” So helpful, especially when searching for specific emails.

    • http://philcooke.com Phil Cooke

      Brilliant Jan. Following your idea would save the trouble of even opening the email. Love this… Thanks for posting!

  • Bob

    Actually, “YES” — email has taken over my life. :-)

    Well, not completely – yet. However, email communication drives what I do day-to-day. You make some good points.

    However, learning how to have the email client properly handling and sorting emails is almost as important as having a good receptionist.
    Next, learning how to quickly mark, sort, prioritize and delete emails when received is extremely important.
    One point that could really be a time killer is *not* checking email first thing in the morning. Very often, there are emails that are sent during the night that change or modify that first important thing of the day. I can’t count the number of time I would have totally wasted a morning if I had not read my email before starting on priority #1.
    Related to that is the response … some may view it as unnecessary, but if I don’t acknowledge that I have received an email that needs action, the sender (or others CC’d on the team) may assume it isn’t being handled and cause others to duplicate efforts, wasting their time and mine.

    Finally, definitely agree with CC’ing the right people. Also, having an understanding within the team that those directly receiving the email (TO:) are expected to act and respond, and those CC’d are for FYI or have a supporting role to the persons the mail was sent TO, and should not necessarily respond unless requested to do so.

    Hopefully this will be helpful to those in similar circumstances.

    • Bob

      [[side note: take a few moments to proof-read and spell-check before sending an email, which I obviously didn't do]]

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