Now is the perfect time to cull your inbox, says Marsha Egan
Email use is on the rise. Daily, people on all rungs of the corporate ladder, entrepreneurs, and those working from home complain about the number of emails they receive. They tell me how much work it is for them to handle and how just opening up the inbox stresses them out.
The ninth annual Clean Out Your Inbox Week is January 25 through 29, so I thought I’d share a few tips on how to actually reduce the amount of email you receive!
So instead of letting excessive amounts of email control you, here are 10 sure-fire ways to manage your outgoing email so that you will reduce the number coming in.
- Be very clear – and specific. By making sure that the content of your emails is very understandable, you can avoid people emailing you with questions. Taking a small amount of time on the front end to read through the email you are about to send can go a long way in avoiding a return question.
- Make the subject line detailed. By including detailed information in the subject lines, your recipients will be able to sort and respond to your message with the right priority. The detailed subject line will also help you sort and handle responses.
- Use only one subject per email. The reality is that most people skim. If you put two requests in one email, there is a strong likelihood that only one of the requests will be responded to. It is more effective to send two emails with different subjects, than to incorporate two subjects into one email. This practice is also helpful for people who want to file the messages.
- Place the main point, assignment, or request in the first two lines of the email. People have a tendency to build up to a conclusion when they write; this makes it very difficult, at times, for recipients to figure out what the main issue or request is. By putting your main point in the first sentence, you can avoid misinterpretations and get readers focused on exactly what you want, right from the start.
- Copy only the people who need to read the message. For every extraneous person copied on an email, you have the potential to receive a response. Now, you’ve just created more unnecessary email for the both of you!
- Send less email. While this may seem a no-brainer, email begets email. Sometimes it is better and easier to pick up the phone, or to just not respond.
- Have a detailed signature line. Make sure that all of your contact information is in the signature line of every email you send. This way, anyone who needs to contact you will not have to email you asking for your address, fax number, etc.
- Keep emails short. Most readers skim. Give them less to skim and they’ll get the message. When you send short messages, you are actually choosing the most important points, and they will too. Most people will respond in the same manner, so you’ll have less to read and your efficiency will increase.
- Avoid controversial or argumentative emailing. When you engage in an emotional discussion via email, the emails will fly. Emotional issues should never be handled by email; a phone call or person-to-person handling of the situation is best, both for the sake of your inbox, and the health of the office dynamic.
- Purge, Purge, Purge. People don’t realize that too many megabytes can cripple, slow, or even crash their hard drives. Systematic deletions of out-of-date items, saving emails without large attachments to the hard drive, and purging your sent mail, can help you stay ahead of the curve, protect your computer, and reduce your stress.
While each one of these may save only a small amount of time, or may reduce your email only by a few, collectively they have potential to enormously help you control the number of the emails you receive.
Email is here to stay – and the sooner you develop productive habits regarding its use, the more time you will have for what is really important in your life.