Working Smart: Email Tips for 2013

Laura LoPresti of LML & Associates is our guest blogger this week, reviewing Email Protocol Tips for 2013.

LML & Associates provides hands-on training introducing Microsoft Outlook as a total time-management solution.  Our training and coaching provides measurable results in the areas of personal and team productivity.  We help busy professionals create a consistent focus on priorities, gain control of their email, improve communications, manage time, tasks, and activities and use Outlook with a ‘business planning’ approach.  Contact Laura LoPresti at (813) 404-2230 for further information.

 

Most professionals receive a new email every 8 minutes and spend more than half of their day “living in their inbox”.  By making some simple changes to our email protocol we can reduce the volume and better manage the emails we receive each day.

 

URGENCY:

  1. Don’t use e-mail for urgent communications.  Use the telephone or speak face to face.  If you must send someone an urgent e-mail, phone them and let them know it is coming.
  2. Establish regular e-mail check intervals with your team, e.g. every two hours, twice a day, or at the top of each hour.  Agree on an appropriate response time for non-urgent e-mails, e.g. by close of business, within 24 hours.
  3. Don’t use e-mail to try to achieve a consensus– it will go on forever.  If an issue isn’t resolved in three e-mails, pick up the phone.

 

SUBJECT:

  1. Compose e-mail subject lines that are specific and decision enabling.  Make the subject of the e-mail “crystal clear”, e.g. “Final inventory numbers needed by Friday” vs. “Inventory”.  And if the subject matter of the email has changed during the back and forth exchange, be sure to edit the subject line before forwarding, replying or filing the email.
  2.  If the email you are sending is less than a line long, simply type the complete message on the subject line of the email and end it with “END”.  This allows your recipients to get your point without even opening the email.

RESPONSE REQUIRED:

  1.  Agree with colleagues on acronyms to use in subject lines so that action items are quickly identified.  Sample acronyms: AR = action required, RFI = request for information (include a “needed by” date in subject line), FYI = for your information and no action is required.  This helps colleagues prioritize which emails need to be processed first.
  2.  Stop sending acknowledgement replies to all e-mails received, e.g. “thanks”, “OK”, “Got it”, etc. are not necessary and just add to the email volume.

LENGTH OF MESSAGE:

  1.  Keep your responses brief.  Those who email you will typically adopt your style.
  2.  Keep to one subject per e-mail.  Don’t lump information on two or more topics into one e-mail – it causes confusion and limits the ability to take action.
  3.  Remove long sections of historical text from e-mails that have been circulated.  Start the email with a concise summary of the conversation to date so that the recipient doesn’t have to scroll down and read multiple pages of emails to determine what the email is about.
  4.  A concise e-mail that does not fill the entire screen with text is more likely to be read.
  5.  Be thoughtful about sending large attachments, especially if your company culture is dependent on mobile devices. Consider using a link to a folder on a shared network or website.

DISTRIBUTION:

  1.  Only copy those who need to see the message.  Do not use general circulation lists which include people who do not need the message – instead, set up your own ‘targeted’ distribution lists.  And if you are being unnecessarily copied on certain types of emails, let the sender know so that they can take you off of their distribution list.
  2.  Do not use ‘Reply to All’ unless specifically requested.  Reply instead only to the originator, who can consolidate all replies and circulate if relevant.
  3.  Be selective about who is placed in the “TO:” line.  The To: line should only include the people who are expected to act on the e-mail.  Being on the “CC:” line means that you’re only being “kept in the loop” and no response is necessary. If five people are sent a request and all are in the “TO:” line, it will not be clear who is actually supposed to take action.

 

HANDLING E-MAILS:

  1.  Use “Out of Office / Auto-Reply” to let people know when you are away.  People may assume you have received and read urgent messages when in fact you are not even in the office.  Indicate you won’t be checking email and refer sender to an alternative contact.
  2.  Treat email like regular mail.  Check your email at regular times in the day (i.e. early morning, midday and late afternoon).  Even if you receive a large volume of e-mails, checking your e-mail more than four times a day, becomes counter-productive.
  3.  Clear your Inbox every day.  Read items once and delete, forward, reply, convert into a task or appointment, or store in a folder for future reference.

 

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