Inbox Makeover: 6 email tips to change your life May01

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Inbox Makeover: 6 email tips to change your life

too much emailThis year, on my “areas for improvement” list, I put email near the top.

We can all “do” email better. Most of us, begrudgingly, spend the bulk of our workday on email, so it seems worth it to invest a little time making the whole system run smoother. There’s even a growing online movement, Email Charter, looking to squash “the relentless growth of in-box overload.”

When I first start working with someone, I like to be up front:

I am not curt; I am efficient.

No need to wish me a wonderful week – every week.

Let’s just assume we’re both thankful.

Until Email Charter has been fully embraced by the professional community, why not try one of these inbox-reducing strategies I’ve outlined below? A new tip, technique or app integrated into your email-life can literally save you hours, if not a few grey hairs.

Here’s a list of the 6 most annoying emails and tips on how to delete them from your inbox for good:

1) The “Your mailbox is over the limit” email: You’re breezing through your to-do list and then you get the most dreaded email of all. Your inbox is 97% full. Send/receive function has been suspended. Suddenly, you’re scavenging through your inbox looking for the 10 to 20 emails (preferably with attachments or images) you can knock off in order to continue your day. The next ten minutes post firing squad is spent grieving that clip art collection you’d been saving for the past 3 years.

Tip: A little goes a long way in keeping your inbox down to manageable size. Darren Barefoot recently posted a great tip about using Rules and Filters. He suggests creating a rule that removes email you never want to read (but always receive)-  or that you prefer to deal with later – from your inbox. This way, next time the “over limit” message arrives, you simply have to go into your designated “folder” and delete, delete, delete. 

2) The Big Brother email – Read receipt? Really? Who doesn’t feel harassed by this?

Tip: If you’re the dreaded“read receipter,” think about what you can do to make your emails more clear and effective. Rework your subject line strategy. Instead of “Hi,” or some other ambiguous subject, try leading with a status indicator, i.e. Time sensitive, Info Required, Action Needed. If your concern is response time, set yourself a reminder to follow-up.

3) The email that won’t send – Your email is composed, your files are attached and then you get “it”: the spirit-sinking, “email attachment exceeds size limits” notice. Turns out, your latest PowerPoint masterpiece or the photos from the last office party are too big for your own server or your recipients’.  Next thing you know, you’ve entered ‘time-suck emporium’ – you’re setting up accounts, exchanging even more emails and reloading your images. Oh, and because that rejected email is sitting in your sent-box, see #1 above.

Tip: Ask yourself, why does this keep happening? Then, face the hard truth: you need to ditch the attachments and work in a shared space. Google Drive and Dropbox, are the most common and easy-to-use

4) The Misuse of the Important Message Setting! Some people really value what they have to say! You’re supposed to value it too! Preferably, right now!

Tip: Just Don’t Do It. Workshifting.com says to save email for important but not urgent messages and “do your best to educate your team to do the same.” That way, you’re not chained to your inbox; “you can assume that if something is urgent, you’ll find out about it some other way (like via a phone call).”

5) The too hard to ignore email: You know your most productive time in the office begins the moment you sit at your desk in the morning. The “too-hard to ignore email” (Vitamin V, Banana Republic’s perpetual 40% off sale and those darn LinkedIn updates) is driven by hard data to get delivered when you’re most engaged. Stop losing valuable time.

Tip: Schedule in some time every day for personal email/reading. And, to save yourself from distraction, consider diverting those “must-reads” to your personal inbox.  

6) The totally pointless email: “Great.” “Thanks.” “Ok.” These one-line replies are absolutely useless. They say nothing; they mean nothing; and they cost everyone time.

Tip: We all need to work on cutting down our email length. For this reason, I am a huge fan of bullets. Resist the temptation to send out that lonely “thanks,” instead why not try including a “Thanks in advance” to your original message.  And, as Email Charter, decrees:

Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR.
If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (= End of Message). This saves the recipient having to actually open the message. Ending a note with “No need to respond” or NNTR, is a wonderful act of generosity.

That last tip changed my life. Which one will change yours?

Tell me, what’s your biggest email pet peeve?