The other day I was having lunch with some of my staff, and one of them reminded me of how she and a few others used to take turns transcribing emails for me. They would read me an email, and then I would tell them what to type in response. This was about five years ago, after I sustained a concussion. Because of my symptoms, I was unable to work on the computer for six months. Even now, working on a computer for extended periods of time makes my symptoms worse. It was during this time that I started to develop personal “rules” around email management that I continue to use today.
One of the most common complaints I hear from people is how much time they spend on emails, usually at the expense of attending to more important tasks. Although we can’t control how people outside our organization use emails, we can develop protocols for how we use emails internally.
Here are a few of my rules for emailing within our organization:
- Don’t write long emails. I have been known to reply to employees who have written a long email with, “I didn’t read your email – it was too long.” After responding in this way once or twice, staff learn to be succinct in their emails, or they come talk to me. Beyond the fact that it takes up too much of my time to read long emails, the other thing I don’t like about them is that the sender has wasted a lot of time crafting their message. It’s always quicker to talk than to write!
- Don’t cc unnecessary people. I do not need to be cc’d on every email correspondence just because I “might be interested.” Unless I have a specific role to play in the email correspondence, I don’t want to be cc’d. Sometimes I even write, “Please remove me from this email thread.”
- Don’t hold an email meeting. When an email thread turns into a meeting that never ends, it’s time to end the email meeting and have an in-person or phone meeting. When this happens, I write, “This email conversation is turning into a meeting. Let’s stop and actually meet.”
These are three of the most important things I’ve done to tame my email inbox. The next time you are overwhelmed by emails, I encourage you to think about what you could do to control how emails are used internally.
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