Is Email Killing Your Work Life? | Slim Digital

Is Email Killing Your Work Life?


October 18, 2015

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If you hate e-mail, it’s probably not e-mail’s fault. Whenever new technologies are introduced to the way we work, they seem to take over.   We find that the technology or process that you thought would create huge efficiencies has instead become a burden. So it can be with e-mail if you don’t use it properly.

 

Remember, email is just an extension of snail mail and internal memos, which themselves are an extension of verbal communication. The rules that apply in those situations apply over email….and social media too while we are at it.

 

Email has become the dominant form of communication. Phone calls are hard to recall or intrusive to make and notes from meetings often leave out important details. But email is that piece of communication that everyone can get to in their own time and that can save us or sink us later on when the shit hits the fan.

 

So here are some email rules to keep your inbox from getting to over 200 in that week you have off:

 

  1. Answer Emails Quickly

 

Get it done. Maybe only twice a day. But respond.  If you need to respond in just a one liner then do it. But don’t let them stack up over a couple of days because you are too busy.

 

If this means syncing your phone, iPad, laptop and desktop so that you can sit on the bus, stand in a line, or lie on the couch, then do it. This will reduce anxiety and keep you on top of everything.

 

  1. Clear and Sort Your Emails Every Day!!

 

Try and get your email inbox down to 0 at the end of the day. 30 years ago it was about having a clean desk before going home. Now it is about having an empty inbox before going home. As with the point above, spend from 4-5pm responding to people and sorting emails.

 

But, and this also applies to point 1, I don’t mean answering emails sent to you at 9pm. That is going to set a dangerous precedent, but if the problem needs an answer then just get it done. Remember that most things can’t be fixed after 4pm, no matter how upset someone is. Once it hits 4pm it is generally tools down. So if you get a 9pm email and it can wait until tomorrow, do it first thing, but make sure you actually do it first thing.

 

 

  1. If you can’t write a two sentence email to fix it then make a call  

 

Clearly there are long emails that need to be written to cover a detailed situation or provide a very full response. Take the time to write these. Write them first thing in the morning when you are the most alert and there are no emails intruding. These are the most important e-mails—they’re often the ones others are relying upon to make decisions—but if you don’t make time to write them, they often don’t happen. However, all of these type of emails should be prefaced with a call. A phone call can have answers to emails achieved in a fraction of the time. The time it takes to craft a well written and informed email asking for a number of decisions from someone can be achieved in 3min on the phone. A follow up email confirming is still a great idea. A phone call will always trump an email for the speed of the response and the lowered risk of misinterpretation. But the phone call can be forgotten whereas the email can be referred to later.

 

Every other email should be 200 words or less. Make it that way. No waffle. Three sentences and you’re done.

 

That’s not normally how we work the normal etiquette prevails. You wouldn’t ask someone for a coffee without having met them. You need to introduce yourself and say why you want to go for coffee and why they should agree. If someone is upset with you in person you wouldn’t—shouldn’t—say a one liner and walk away so don’t do it on email. At the first sign that the other person doesn’t understand, MAKE A PHONE CALL!

 

Also with some emails you can coordinate a ‘phone call time’ with an email – this will ensure no one is caught on the hop or ambushed.

 

 

  1. If you need an answer in under 24hrs then call or sms 

 

If you need an answer in under 24hrs then you need to pick up the phone. You need to know that the other person has received the message and will respond and that’s not possible with e-mail. Setting up a meeting in under 24hrs is the realm of the phone call so that you can deconflict the other persons’ schedule.

 

And yes sms is becoming more acceptable as a form of communication. But be wary of sending sms to Baby Boomers. GenX and Y are probably ok with it but Baby Boomers still expect a call. Know your audience and pick the right tool.

 

 

  1. If you are emotional – Call.  Then follow up with an email. 

 

There is no one who hasn’t been hurt/angered/upset by someone in business. Whether it is a colleague, boss, or client the rules are the same.

 

NEVER EMAIL WHEN YOU ARE UPSET. There are far too many keyboard warriors who think that the rules and etiquette of life don’t apply when hidden behind a screen, but they do. Most of our communication is non-verbal and that’s impossible over e-mail. Tone, inflection, and attitude cannot be conveyed in text and can easily be misconstrued either in the heat of the moment or months later.

 

So pick up the phone. It’s not face to face, but at least tone can be conveyed and it allows for a back and forth and an understanding of the other person that is not easily achievable over email.

 

At best have a meeting, but if you can’t then call. REFUSE to send an email. Make it your number one rule in business and you will avoid getting sucked into the emotional abyss of the keyboard warrior.

 

If you have to get it out of your system, write the nasty email in word or on notes, but NEVER send it. Write it so you can vent, but never put it into the email and never press the send button. I still don’t like this because it just reinforces the negative thoughts and emotions that knock you off kilter. Better to let it wash over you and call them 24hrs later.

 

 

  1. Email At the Right Time

 

If you email someone at 5pm they aren’t going to see it until next day. So if you have something important, make sure that it arrives at someone’s desk when they aren’t super busy so they won’t just delete your email. Tuesday morning at 9am is a good time as they sit down to go through their emails, but have cleared everything from the weekend the day before.

 

Here is a recommended daily schedule:

 

  1. Get to work before 8:30am and go through your emails. Not that many people will do this, but getting up at 5am and doing the really important large emails is the best time. You can be sure no one is emailing you then.
  2. Prioritise them according to effort, importance and urgency – Prioritise them according to the 4D’s – Do, Delay, Delegate and Drop (Delete). All emails can be prioritised according to this.
  3. Make phone calls from 9-10am.
  4. Respond to emails from 11-12pm
  5. Phone Calls (where email just wont cut it) 3-4pm (most people are back from lunch by then).
  6. Clear emails from 4-5pm.

 

Finally here is an insightful graph about emails and going on holidays. The emails you thought were important probably aren’t and you can probably delete most emails. Check it out:

Going on Holidays Email Graph SLiM DIGITAL

 

Listen to Aaron here on how to manage your emails.

 

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