You’ve got mail…and mail…and mail! Forget the printed variety that your postal carrier delivers. We’re talking about that beeping, blinking, buzzing messenger on your computer screen. The one that signals someone has you in their sights and is hoping to nab your attention.
Electronic mail can be a wonderful tool. Using it well takes skill.
Don’t bother collecting and opening your email until you actually have time to deal with it. When you just take a quick peak even though you have no time to respond, you’ve just interrupted yourself for nothing.
Decide when and how often you want your system to check for mail or let you know that have mail. Hourly? Twice daily? At your request? Don’t have it alert you on the arrival of every piece of mail. Flashing icons and ringing bells are just as much of a distraction as someone setting a piece of paper on the corner of your desk.
Use filters in your email software to redirect messages to various folders — including trash. Filtering e-zines and newsletters to a ‘Reading’ folder separates them from correspondence that may need more immediate attention.
When you’re finished with a message, trash it or file it. Create a ‘Reply’ file to which you can transfer new messages that you will respond to later. Create a ‘Reply Pending’ file to help you follow up on messages for which you are awaiting a response. File other messages by person or project, as you would with paper files.
Create brief and informative titles for your messages. When appropriate, use the title as the message (i.e. — Wed 10:00 meeting time AOK). This saves the other person the trouble of opening the message.
Respect message priority levels and don’t overuse ‘urgent’. Check the default priority setting on your computer. You could be sending out ‘high priority’ messages without even realizing that it’s happening.
Customize your signature file and include full contact details for the various routes to your eyes and ears: phone, fax, mailing address, website and email. This is especially important for messages headed outside your organization.
Limit message length for easier reading. Break up long messages by using bold or colorful subheadings. Leave spaces between sections.
Where formatting is important, or if your message is lengthy, provide the information in two ways. Paste an unformatted copy at the end of your email message. Provide the formatted version of the document as an attachment.
Restrict each email to one or two related issues to make it easier for the receiver to file and track responses.
When an exchange of ‘reply’ emails leads to a change in subject, update the message title to reflect the shift. You’ll provide a reliable description of the contents and makes it easier for you and the receiver to file.
Acknowledge the receipt of a message when it matters to the sender. Indicate ‘no reply’ when you don’t need a response to your message.
When launching a new circulation list, ask the recipients if they wish to keep receiving the information. Give easy instructions for how to remove themselves from the list.
Above all, use restraint in distribution. Who needs to know? Who wants to know? Who could care less? Govern your mail lists accordingly.
© Patricia Katz MCE CHRP of Optimus Consulting is a speaker, author and consultant who helps individuals and organizations restore the rhythm of renewal to work and life. To bring Patricia’s expertise to your organization, contact her at www.patkatz.com or toll free at (877) 728-5289.