If people hate meetings because:
- They don’t start on time
- They don’t finish on time
- And what’s in the middle is a waste of time…
You could say people hate emails because:
- They are sent all the time
- Reading them consumes a lot of time.
- The content is often a waste of time!
Are you being productive when answering emails?
Sometimes yes… but often not. After meetings, you’ll find emails the biggest time killer. Ever sat down at your desk, opened your inbox and started bashing away at the keys for several hours only to emerge feeling unproductive, with a pile full of unfinished work still on your mind?
Add up the cost of lost production, it’s staggering. Especially if staff are emailing each other all day without value.
Example: 15 staff who spend one hour per day reading and answering time-wasting emails is a total of 15 hours lost production per day. In a given week that’s 75 hours. Almost 2 full-time employees.
Add time-wasting meetings and it’s no mystery why companies have trouble posting a profit while everyone is “working” so hard.
Here are a few tips to reduce email traffic:
- Keep your emails brief—don’t write an essay.
- Never send angry or emotional emails.
- Don’t reply to every CC (and don’t CC everybody).
- Answer people’s questions!
- Send emails with solutions, not just problems.
- Turn off automatic notifications.
Let’s take each point:
- Keep it brief
If you don’t want people to read your emails… send long ones!
You should have a clear idea of what you intend to communicate before you start writing.
Ask yourself: What is the exact idea I want to convey?
If you can’t answer that, don’t send it.
If you do have something to say, get to the point. The other person’s time is valuable too.
2. Never send angry or emotional emails
You know it’s true—emotional or angry emails always create extra work!
You may feel better for 5 minutes but you’ll spend hours fixing the upsets, usually with more emails and meetings!
This applies even more so to executives and business owners. The higher you are in the organization, the more destructive emotional emails are.
- Write down everything you want to say, but don’t use your email software, use something else to prevent accidentally sending.
- Go for a walk. Calm down.
- Re-read their email and your reply.
- Remove the emotion and keep to the point.
When I’ve applied this, my two page rant becomes “Thanks for your email” and doesn’t create extra work for one and all.
3. You don’t have to reply to every Cc.
How many extra emails are generated by people doing the email CC game?
A great rule of thumb: Only answer emails directly addressed to you.
When CC’ed (carbon copied) or being info’ed on an email, you don’t have to reply to the sender and you certainly don’t need to reply to everyone.
A simple “Thanks for the info” to the sender is all that is required if anything at all.
An email is an electronic form of mail. It’s like a hard copy letter. People used to actually write a letter with carbon paper underneath to make “carbon copies” or Cc.
If people still had to go to this much trouble to Cc, it would probably cut worldwide email traffic by half!
Image a business where a person writes a letter to everyone in the office. Then everyone writes their reply on the original, makes copies and distributes them to everyone.
Paper would pile up and not much work would get done.
You’d take a look at the place and think it was a mad house! Email is no different.
So the rules are:
- Send only to those who need the information.
- Reply only to those messages sent directly to you.
4. Answer People!
Make a habit of answering valid emails. If you don’t answer, the sender wonders if you received it and has to follow up. This creates double work for them and you. I’m sure you can think of a time when you were waiting for an answer but couldn’t get one, it’s not very pleasant.
Gain a reputation for answering your emails in a reliable manner.
5. Send emails with solutions, not just problems.
Telling someone about a problem doesn’t fix the problem.
Every discussion about a problem should also contain a recommended solution.
Excuses for not completing a task is another type of problem-only email. Those who have trouble getting anything done tend to send emails to avoid completing the task at hand. Or worse, they call a meeting to discuss the problem!
Sending problem-only emails means the other person has to figure out a solution or ask for more information. This creates extra work for everyone.
If a problem exists, always include a solution.
Can you imagine if everyone if your office focused on solutions? Sounds like a dream!
6. Turn off automatic notifications
Imagine the postman walking into your office, interrupting you, every single time you received a letter in the mail. There you are in an important meeting and he pops in to give you an update about your child’s school fees or a LinkedIn notification.
Or you are on a sales call, just about to close a deal and in comes Postman Pat demanding your attention.
Each interruption cuts your concentration and line of thought. Even if it only takes you a second or two to re-focus, every interruption adds ups. If you find it difficult to get your job done and feel overworked at the end of the day, interruptions are often the source.
Turn off notifications on your computer and phone. Stay focused. You decide when the postman delivers.
Until next time, may your emails get shorter, your inbox smaller and your productivity reach greater heights!
Looking to manage your business better.
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Credit: Oision Grogan