Managing your email – 10 top tips

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Email can be a great tool to communicate with.  However, user beware!  Review the following questions – how bad are you at managing your email?

  • Is your inbox cluttered?
  • How regularly do you check your emails?
  • Do you open an email as soon as it arrives?
  • Do you email when you could have phoned?
  • Do you use CC and BCC unnecessarily?
  • Do you think before you click?

Good leaders should view handling email as a time management skill that you need to improve.  Email can create a sense of urgency, but most of the messages you receive are not urgent.  Controlling the volume of messages you receive may not be always possible, however you can learn to use email more efficiently.

To improve your use of email try the following 10 steps:

  1. Know your audience – if your audience rarely uses email you maybe better simply calling.  Also, don’t use email as an excuse to avoid talking to someone or to avoid an uncomfortable situation (yes I’m at fault here).
  2. Get the tone right – Emails should be informal, but professional.  Remember, your email message reflects you and your organisation, so traditional spelling, grammar and punctuation rules apply.  Desperately avoid text language, use of emojis.  Finally, do not use emails for messages that could be misinterpreted.  As an email does not have a tone of voice or body language, people often question what an email actually means.
  3. Keep it brief – Keep your messages brief and make sure that the subject line relates to the email content.  Try to focus on one topic per message whenever possible.
  4. Check your emails at certain times of the day – this is one of the hardest things to get used to.  Do not have your email system open at your desk all day – its simply too easy to get distracted by the notifications.  You will have increased productivity and efficiency if you check and respond to emails at certain times of the day.  The same, incidentally, applies to social media too.
  5. Have a strategy – have a strategy in place for how you will handle email when you do check it.  For example, as you open each email do one of three things
    1. If it requires a quick response (no more than 1 min) respond to it and delete it
    2. If it requires a response but is not urgent and you are not the best person to answer the email, delegate it.  This links to a previous blog post on the seven steps of effective delegation.
    3. If its going to take time to respond to schedule it into your day.
  6. Manage your inbox – do not leave mail in your inbox.  Make sure you clear out your inbox whenever you check your email.  Remember, a cluttered inbox is just as bad as a cluttered desk.  Declutter your inbox by setting up folders and rules.
  7. Restrict bcc and cc usage – Be cautious when using cc; overuse will clutter up someone else’s inbox. 
  8. Use a signature – Use an email signature that includes contact information so that people know who you are.  You can use signatures as a form of auto text if you are replying to a lot of similar emails to save typing time.
  9. Think about privacy – Remember that email is not private.  Don’t send anything confidential via email.  Don’t use email for anything that will reflect badly on you or your business.  Remember that anything you send can be forwarded, saved and printed.
  10. Think before you click – Never send email when you are angry or upset.  Step away from the keyboard and cool down first.  Simply ask yourself would you say this to the person face to face.  Think before you click the send button.

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