Remember when people made phone calls?
Whenever you needed to know something, you just picked up the phone and called them.
These days, we’re all chained to our laptops, emailing each other day and night.
Did you get the report?
What do you think about this approach?
Email is a wonderful tool, but like social media or too much internet, if you don’t control it, it will control you.
I read a lot about the email habits of successful people, and I like to think I’ve got a pretty good handle on my own inbox.
But I know that’s not the case for many people, and I don’t blame them.
Email is a relatively new invention and we’ve never been taught how to handle it properly.
So, I’m going to give you a few pointers of things I’ve learned and been taught along the way.
1. Decide and respond
When someone emails you and it’s about an issue that you don’t need to consult anyone else on, then respond straight away.
If you don’t, you run the risk of forgetting to do it.
Don’t think, “I will get to that later” because we all know how easy it is to forget.
This is especially true when the response that’s required is a short one.
2. Delete, delete
At the end of each day, do a quick survey of your inbox and delete the emails that are of no consequence.
Those that you may need later should be filed in email folders under subject headings.
I also recommend spending some time clearing out your email subscriptions once a month.
If you’re finding a lot of advertising emails in your inbox that you no longer read, then hit “unsubscribe”.
The less junk email in your inbox, the better.
3. Close it down regularly
Most people think they can multi-task, but the truth is we all struggle to do two things well at the same time.
If you’re working on an important document or project, then you don’t want your email constantly pinging and taking your attention away.
Once your attention drifts, you have to spend time regaining deep concentration.
Decide how frequently you need to check your email (be honest) and then close it down for that period of time.
For example, you may check your email at 9am, but not re-open it again until 11am.
4. Always get back to people
If you always get back to people then you’re probably very well-regarded in your field.
Not only is this good email etiquette, it will make a big difference to your career if you know how to communicate well via email.
Email is about more than just responding to others or asking people to do something for you.
It’s about keeping people in the loop, updating them as to the status of projects and giving them the courtesy of regular contact.
People love courtesy, and email courtesy is a great way of standing out among the pack.
5. Avoid too much humour
I’m all for being friendly with clients and co-workers, but I think we need to be careful about the kind of humour we use in emails and how much of it.
It’s very hard to read the tone of someone’s message as email has no context.
This means that some people can read hostility or anger into perfectly innocent messages.
That’s not good for relationships or business.
So keep it friendly and straight-forward, and make sure you only use humour with those you know really well.
I also recommend people steer clear of too many emojis.
The occasional smiling emoji to convey a happy tone is fine, but use any more than that and you run the risk of looking unprofessional.
None of the above tips are hard to implement, but I guarantee the effect on your working life will be noticeable.
The less time you spend deep in your inbox, the more time you’ll have for the things that matter, such as doing your job properly.
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