Email Inbox overloaded? Too much time spent emailing?
Is your email inbox overloaded – or do you spend too much time on your emails? READ my 6Ps for making your emailing day a lot lot easier.
( You can also read my blog posts on Tips for email and Avoiding the PESTS of email )
1) Use the 3-Part structure to save time on emails
Many people get 30+ emails every day – their inbox is overloaded. And dealing with so many emails is time consuming and not easy.
If an email arrives that is long, unattractive (bad layout) or complicated to interpet, the receiver will quite likely – and quite reasonably – leave dealing with the email until later.
And who would blame them?
Whereas, if your email is well structured – so the receiver can speedily digest your content – it will be answered and actioned much more quickly.
Just what you want.
To help your emails get attention, use this effective 3-part structure:
First, give some brief context to the email – e.g. I am following up our meeting on Monday.
Then go into the details. Keep related information together, separate the details using paragraphs, and use sub-headings or numbers if appropriate.
End with the Action you want from the receiver – Can you get back to me before Monday?
Take advantage of the fact that readers’ attention is greatest when they first open your email and read your opening paragraph.
Capitalise on this by drawing readers’ attention to any important points in your email, eg. Sorry this email is a little long … This is really important … Please read the email carefully, etc.
2) Think ‘Purpose’, to speed up your emailing
Before starting to write, and before getting seduced into replying to an email immediately (see Pause, below), think first what you want to achieve from your communication.
Yes, you might be able to respond immediately to an email, and reduce the size of your email inbox, but you might also have a longer term objective that requires some different content. For example, if you are trying to build relations with an organisation you may need to be more thorough and tactical in your reply – but rushing off a reply immediate may not achieve that!
3) Could using the Phone be a more effective alternative to emailing?
Email has become everyone’s normal method of communication. So much so that our email inboxes are completely overloaded, and they take up a lot of our time. But sometimes we slip into using it without really thinking – and when another mode of communication may be more appropriate, or more efficient.
If the subject of your email is complicated, delicate, requires discussion, has more than one possible answer, etc., using email may NOT result in emails going back and forward for ages, as you try and resolve things. So, before you spend too much time composing emails like these, ask yourself whether a phone call or face-to-face meeting would be a more effective and quicker way to communicate.
4) PAUSE sending that email, before it is too late
How much time do you spend in your email inbox? Doing so is very very seductive – indeed, it is easy to get sucked into replying to the ones in our inbox immediately (and checking our inbox all day long). After all, it shows that we are efficient, etc. But although it is OK to do this sometimes, speedy replies to our inbox aren’t always necessary – and they stop you from writing a more considered reply.
This is true in particular if your email is long, about a tricky/delicate issue, or requires exploring multiple options (setting a date for a meeting), etc. In these cases, why not pick up the phone? And it is even more important when you are angry, or when it’s the end of a day/week – and you are not in the best mood. Pause. Don’t send an email you later regret!
5) Polish up your text before emailing
Writing clearly isn’t easy – even the best writers don’t manage to write things exactly as they want them, on their first draft. And without body language, emphasis, eye contact, etc. to help you with your email (as in talking), it is hard to convey the right tone of voice. Writing well takes time.
But be careful of 3 types of language when emailing. Negatives can sound abrupt (We ‘can’t’ help you). Absolutes could haunt you later on (Your ‘best’ solution is do this). And emotions can be misread (Jim’s comments were ‘annoying’). To check your words are clear, comprehensive and polite, before you hit Send: (1) ask yourself if you would speak the same words to the receiver, (2) Check it really carefully, by printing it, reading it out loud, or email it first to yourself.
6) Proofread the email before you press Send
Email is such a fast-paced mode of communication that it is easy to make mistakes. But be careful, there’s nothing more embarrassing than a typo – or a mistake, like a forgotten attachment that you later have to send in another email. And there is nothing people will notice more than your mistakes, especially of simple words, and personal/company names, etc.
Your email inbox may be overloaded, but slow down for a few minutes before you hit Send – especially if it’s your first approach to someone/an organisation, when impressions really matter and could cost you later. Double-check long words and unusual names. Better still, print out your email and go through it r-e-a-l-l-y slowly, line by line.