I believe that email was originally designed to help us become more productive, but in talking to my clients it seems to now take up so much time, attention and energy that we are ‘unproductive’ with our email systems.
Here are a few quick tips to help you use email in a more productive way:
Use “Out of Office” facility – if you are unable to respond to emails or you will be out of your office for a long period of time, leave an “out of office” auto responder on your email system. This helps you manage other’s expectations and gives you more time to respond to people.
Don’t copy everyone on your email – only send the email to the relevant people who will action it. If you have multiple people on an email distribution, list their name within the text of the email and what is required of them and by when. People will appreciate your direct approach and this will clearly communicate why you sent the email to them.
Get off electronic lists – if you are subscribing to ezines you never read or on lists you don’t want to be on, unsubscribe and get off the lists so you can eliminate some of the messages in your inbox that you won’t read.
Think and write in bullet points – keep sentences short and to the point. Don’t use email to create long paragraphs or criticise people’s performance. Ask others who communicate with you to keep their emails short also.
Always use a greeting – take the time to greet your contact in email just like you do in person. Some people also like to use emotion icons eg. :) – These can help add tone to your message.
Learn the functionality of email – spend time finding out what facilities are available within your system to maximise your use of email.
Colour code your emails – use the functionality of colour coding incoming emails so at a glace you can see who in your inbox is important and who you need to respond to first.
Only check your email 2-3 times per day – so much time is wasted responding to emails throughout the day, focus your energy on checking and responding only 3 times a day, once when you start your day, after lunch then one hour before you leave your office. This will ensure you can handle important communication in a timely manner.
Delete once actioned – don’t let emails stay in your inbox, this is not your task list. Once actioned, delete them. If you need to take action from the email, book time to complete the task and then delete it.