We’ve become slaves to our InBoxes. If you want to free yourself, and really get more done, make a few small changes to how you use email. CaptureApps’ tips for better email productivity can add minutes to your day, hours to your week and days to your year. Check ’em out.
Stop watching your InBox all day. “Schedule interruptions” is a great philosophy that you can use in whatever increments you prefer. Some people need to stay in touch, so if you’re using the Pomodoro method, use 5 minutes every half hour. If you can reduce to checking email 2-3 times per day, you’ll get way more done. Yes, the transition from instant response to twice daily is abrupt, and your customers and colleagues may react with frustration. You can remind them, though, that if something is important, they can always call. You’ll add a huge amount of productivity to your day by avoiding task switching.
Stay Inside the Subject Lines
Use descriptive subject lines, never leave your subject line blank, and try to avoid changing the topic within an email thread. If you’re switching topics or addressing multiple issues, create a new message or split into separate messages. You’ll not only help your own workflow, but that of any recipients. And you can avoid some issues with embarrassment if something is inadvertently shared when a message is forwarded.
Brevity Is a Virtue
We prefer messages that fit within the preview window. If it’s longer than that, you may be better off using the phone. Sometimes you need to write long emails (e.g., a contract discussion), but certainly not all the time. Provide a quick introduction and ask for a call, if necessary. Your emails will be read more often.
What’s In It For Me?
Be clear at the top of your message (both in the subject and the opening line) what you’re talking about and asking for. If you want your recipient to take action, don’t camouflage your request or wait 8 paragraphs to ask. With everyone so busy, being clear about the action is going to make everyone more productive. You’ll get the responses you’re needing.
Think More Than Twice About Reply All
REPLY ALL is rarely useful. Unless you’re sure everyone on the distribution list needs to know your reply, simply use REPLY. If you’re having a group discussion where feedback and collaboration are the core idea, great, REPLY ALL. But if the message is sent to ask who can attend a meeting or find out who is bringing food to the company picnic, REPLY should suffice (let the group coordinator manage the rest). You’ll save time for everyone in the distribution group.
Do You Want This Read in Court?
When you write messages, consider whether you would want anyone other than the intended recipient to see its contents. I had a recent (embarrassing) incident where a candid comment was sent to a big group of people. I’ve seen emails that truly ended an employment dispute (“the smoking gun” was revealed). We see it on the evening news frequently – emails are leaked, hacked and shared to the wrong people. If it’s a private comment, don’t put it in writing. You’ll avoid embarrassment and potential litigation.
Scheduling a Meeting
When you’re scheduling, offer 2-3 available times. You’ll save many back-and-forth emails if you offer when you can make it. “How about a call next week?” is insufficient – try “Let’s schedule a 20-minute call Monday 10am-12pm, Tuesday 2pm-4pm or Thursday before noon”. You’re showing your recipient the courtesies of duration (20 minutes) and times you can be available (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday), implying that you’re not available on Wednesday or Friday. You’ll save dozens of emails every month.
Before you hit SEND, read what you’ve written. Yes, all of it. You may have been writing in a torrent and left out the word NOT: “I will be there” is different than “I will not be there”! Make sure you’re getting your point across. You’ll avoid embarrassment or confusion, saving everyone the hassle of mistakes.
Tips for Better Email Productivity
We want you to get more done. Take good notes, have great meetings, use email more effectively. It’s amazing how our habits form and hinder us from getting to where we want to go. Equally amazing is how easily we can correct those habits and crush it. Try adding one of our email productivity tips the next time you’re writing a note. Then the next time, add another, and so on. It all adds up to better productivity and quality of work.