Saturday, January 05, 2013

Five Tips for Sending Great Emails and Saving People Time

I recently used an application called RescueTime, which is a time analysis application that measures your productivity. With this service’s help, I discovered that emailing was the activity that I engaged in the most – averaging 13 hours per week.

RescueTime considers this productive but I don't. Although staying on top of your emails is important, it’s not generally profitable (at least not directly).

The Business of Handling Emails

Because I get so many emails, I sometimes overlook an important one. Then sometimes I choose not to reply right away so that I can move on to other important activities.

The Coneybeer Email Management System, which I previously discussed in another blog, helps a lot. NZCS has also written a tool for one of our clients which I plan to use in the New Year. This tool sends you a text if you have more than 50 items in your inbox. As a bonus, it also sends texts a buddy to put some social pressure on you  to get on top of your emails.

While the above can help you manage your emails, you might wonder how you can help others who receive your emails. Here’s how:

  1. If you send an email with multiple people listed in the “To” section, you’re less likely to get a reply. Some of them might leave it to the other enlistees to respond. Also, don’t send out machine gun attacks; instead target as few people as possible with your emails. And last, in regards to emailing multiple people, use “CC” for people you’re only including out of courtesy.
  2. Is your email going to start a short conversation that might be resolved faster through a quick phone call? Email is important when a record is required; however, a quick voice conversation is faster and won’t disrupt you multiple times. If you like, you can write a summary email after your call.
  3. Are you sure your email has a clear purpose minus not wasting your recipients’ time? You shouldn’t expect them to read your mind either. Sometimes I spend time writing an email and think, “hmm, actually I know the answer already” and conclude there’s no point in continuing the email. Other times I realize a phone call would be much faster. While it’s easy to fire off something that seems as clear as day to you, the reader isn’t beside you. Therefore, he or she has no context of the things that might surround the issue or question.
  4. Ensure the subject line is clear. Often during email exchanges, the conversation changes. However, some people forget to change the email’s subject line. Keep it relative to the subject; remove old non-related parts of the email; for these later become searchable references. It’s much easier to find them later if they’re well defined.

2013 Email Goal

My goal for the upcoming year is to reduce the amount of time I spend on emails; thus, freeing me to do more productive work.

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