I was chatting with a friend several months ago on how it can be a chore to keep track of my emails. At some point I thought something was wrong somewhere, so I had to take a step back and work on better habits: sort, organize, and declutter.
It appears I’m not the only one who feels this way about emails. So I said to myself, “why not write a post on this?!”
Here we are, several months later! Oh well, at least I finally came down to writing a post on this topic.
Emails are one of the most used kinds of software in the workplace. Personally, I love sending or receiving emails, it makes me feel like I have a backup or proof (*lol* maybe because of my law background).
So, I’m always happy to receive or respond to a personal message in my Gmail account rather than receive a phone call, but thanks to voicemails that make things much easier for me. The reason is this: I could be really busy at the moment and may not want to receive a phone call for urgent reasons. It’s complicated!
Generally, I like the idea behind sending out emails. I mean, it’s faster, saves you the energy of speaking, and you can always look back to it for reference where necessary. This doesn’t mean that the telephone isn’t useful either.
With the number of emails you may send or receive in a day at work, it may become almost an impossible task to be efficient at work.
So I’m excited to share with you a few email tips. It helps me stay efficient and I’m constantly looking out for more tips. If you have any, please share below in the comment section.
Please bear in mind that my workflow may not be similar to yours and the rate at which I receive emails on a daily basis, so feel free to make tweaks where necessary.
1. Make your email short
One thing I’ve noticed over time is that some emails may go on for months, back and forth. You certainly don’t want to refer to a ‘textbook’ format email. Keep your writing short and concise. It’s still a means of communication, just in written form, so brevity is really important. Let your message be easily understood, so that the necessary actions that should follow can be made.
However, even in trying to make your emails short, you should also be polite. Learn to use more subtle tones that don’t seem commanding. Take note of your industry and how messages are sent. Is it too formal or a bit relaxed? For me, most of my emails tend to be slightly informal because of the culture where I am located but it could be that very formal emails are expected of you where you are located.
Even at that, you don’t want to send out a rude or harsh email. For example, instead of saying: “Send out the documents to me”, try saying: “Can you please send out the documents to me?”
I just feel that being polite goes a long way in making communication of any sort more enjoyable. Also, don’t write in capital letters, it sends a commanding tone to the reader.
2. Reuse old emails
One way to feel disorganized is when you realize that you have several emails on the same topic. A way to avoid this is to reuse sent emails so that you can create an email thread easily. This helps you and the reader stay on the same page and avoid miscommunication.
3. Respond to the important email and create an email thread
If you are communicating with someone and he/ she sends you two different emails on the same topic, pick one out of the two emails that really hits the nail on the head and respond to that email. Don’t bother with the second email. If you expect a response, just continue an email thread with that first email.
For example; Jane sends Kate two emails.
First email: Hi Kate, kindly send me the report of our last meeting.
Second email: Hi Kate, when sending the report of our last meeting, please send me the minutes of the previous meeting as well. I discovered I needed to make some changes.
What I suggest Kate should do is, respond to the second email instead and attach a copy of the report and minutes of the meeting to it.
3. Organize your inbox with labels, folders, sub-folders, and categories
I learned this one from my manager and it works magic. It helps with keeping track of correspondence. In your inbox create folders or labels with people you regularly send emails to and name it with something you can always remember.
For me, I’ve named it with the names of my direct reports and colleagues. It may be different for you, whatever works best!
As soon as you are done responding to an email, move the email to that folder. This tidies your inbox, gives you space and keeps you organized. In the future, you can always refer to any communication you had with a particular person. You can always move it to an archive folder as time goes on.
4. To receive less email, send less email
At the end of the day, if you really feel that the number of emails you receive in a day is just plain outrageous, the only solution is to send fewer emails as well.
For less significant things or simple clarifications, you can easily place a call to the other person. I know I said that I prefer emails, but we have to always remember the human element of our existence and still act like one. Give a call to the other person and have a simple conversation.
This also builds trust and team spirit between co-workers. In the same vein, there won’t be a need to send an email to someone that sits just across you. It will be better to have a conversation; face to face conversations is still so important in the workplace.
5. Mark important emails as unread and refer to it later
Sometimes, you may get to work and realize that you have too many emails to read. In the past, I would panic at this and begin clicking all of it open and may loose track of important emails to respond to.
To avoid this, open the email and if it’s really important, mark it as unread, you will not forget that task because you’ll be prompted to open it up and complete the task. This helps you quickly glance through the email, note what needs to be done and respond to it later.
Personally, these tactics have helped me reduce the stress of feeling overwhelmed with too many tasks just because of my email. It also helps to have a to-do list of tasks from your email stuck below your computer, just so you remember that you have urgent things to handle at a later time.
Also, acknowledge receipt of emails to avoid receiving multiple emails when irrelevant. Try to delete unnecessary emails to create space in your inbox. It’s also a good idea to avoid procrastinating, rather, take actions as soon as possible so that you don’t forget an important assignment.
I hope these tips help you feel more organized. Like I emphasized earlier, my workload may not be similar to yours, so you may need to apply some of these tips with caution.
Do you have other tips for managing emails and do you feel these tips have been useful? Please feel free to share.
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