Ok so maybe I’ve been a little premature in stating that social networks will replace email. It’s just personally I find email so annoying. Trying to find what I want, when I want it isn’t an easy task – especially if you’re like me and have an inbox that is 3,000+ emails strong. So today I wanted to cover seven easy tips to help reduce inbox overload and help you find that one email you’ve spent the last ten minutes looking for.
Tip 1: Is email the right form of Communication?
According to digital-user experience expert, Amy Chowdhry, “Not all communication is appropriate for email.” It’s really tempting to communicate with everyone via email – I mean, we’re on it so much that what’s the harm in firing off a quick email to someone across the office. In her recent Inc. article, Chowdhry points out the importance of segmenting your personal communications. There are those that are right for email versus those that are best suited for phone conversations versus in-person meetings. She also suggests instituting a company-wide policy where email is not allowed to become the default form of communication. To help your reach that goal, Chowdhry offers this piece of advice: don’t start discussions via email. It takes significantly more time to compose a point and debate it on email than it does in-person so try and avoid that temptation altogether.
Tip 2: Think about the message’s recipient
Think about the number of times you’ve read an email and are just totally confused. What are they talking about? The initial message is about a new project, but you haven’t been involved in the previous conversation so you’re totally clueless. Next thing you know, there’s been three more emails sent back and forth in a vain attempt to clarify the initial message. You can greatly reduce the number of emails sent back-n-forth by thinking about the message’s recipient, and focusing on crafting a message to meet their needs. Chowdhry writes, “Before hitting Send, slow down to consider: Did I give all the information needed? Will the reader understand my message? Is my point clear? Are the next steps obvious?”
Tip 3: Anticipate questions
One of the easiest ways to reduce overload is to try and anticipate what your recipient’s impressions and questions will be after reading your message. For example, if you send a meeting cancelation the recipient will probably wonder why and when it will be rescheduled. Instead, try and anticipate those questions and communicate more thoroughly. By attempting to answer some of those questions you’ll cut down on the number of emails sent.
Tip 4: Highlight important info with headlines & bullets
Ok so most people don’t read. I’ll be the first to admit it. Instead, we skim and scan content, trying to pick out the highlights. You’ve probably noticed that major web publishers are masters at using bullets, headlines, bold typeface and other design best practices to help ensure readers stay engaged. The same applies to your emails. Stay away from long paragraphs of text in which important pieces of information are buried – no one will ever find them.
Tip 5: Templates!
Many emails sent to employees, clients, or colleagues are similar in nature. So rather than constructing a new email every time, save templates that remind you of important details to include and contain prebuilt design best practices. For example, Chowdhry writes “at my company, researchers have templates for standard client status updates. I [Chowdhry] use a template for my own monthly company newsletter and to make introductions between colleagues.”
Tip 6: Target your communications
Irreverent messages are not opened and can create unnecessary clutter and a negative impression. Chowdhry advises to think carefully about the people you’re including in your “To” field. Before you send ask yourself if that individual really needs the information, or are you just adding to their email inbox burden.
Tip 7: Set your email preferences
A good way to help cut back on overload is to establish your own email preferences and make them known throughout the company. When leading a team on a project, resist the temptation of being copied on everything. Instead indicate when your team should CC you, and likewise ask your colleagues and staff for their preferences in your communication with them.