Email Etiquette Rule #6

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Reading time: 2 min.

Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #6:

Say less.

Given their busyness, we cannot expect our readers to spend lots of time with our emails. We will have more impact if we limit both the length and frequency of the emails we send.

A good rule of thumb for the length of an email is one screenful. If our readers need to scroll, we may lose their attention. If you have more to say, set a meeting or pick up the phone.

The right frequency of emails depends on your relationship with each reader and the projects you’re working on. One rough measure of good email frequency is the number of times you’d speak to your reader if there was no email. Pretend it’s 1987 and no one has email. If someone sat 50 paces away from your desk, how often would you speak to them live or over the phone? Send emails roughly as frequently.

When we limit how much we email, what we do send stands out.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Of course, attached documents are usually longer than one screenful. If your email includes a request of your reader to review a document, make sure the text introducing the document stays within one screenful.

Email Etiquette Rule #5

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Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #5:

Cautiously Copy.

CCs are a pain. We receive tons of them and they often aren’t that important. Chances are that if we filter out the emails we are cc’d on, we will have significantly less email to handle without much negative impact.

So let’s give our readers a break and limit the number of CC’d email we send. Here are a few guidelines:

  • If you need someone to do something with (act on or respond to) your email, include them in the TO: not the CC:.
  • If you don’t need someone to do something with your email but simply want them to be aware, don’t include them on the original email at all. Instead, forward the email you sent with a brief explanation of why you think they need to read/watch/hear this information.  Yes, CCing is easier, but this approach is more likely to work.
  • If you are sending a CC to get someone in trouble or keep yourself out of trouble, rethink. Do you really need to throw someone under the bus? Instead of CCing to cover yourself, is there a conversation you can have with the person you wish to inform? Or is there a direct email you can send?
  • There is one very good use of a CC: CC someone when praising them to their boss.
  • Use BCCs with as much or more caution.

 

Think of CC as meaning Cautiously Copy.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Email Etiquette Rule #4

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Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #4:

The “ask” goes first.

After writing a smart subject line, start the body of your email with your request (or “ask”) of the reader. If you want to ask a question, ask it. If you want to request an action, do so. If you wish for them to read, watch, or listen to something, say so in the first sentence. Follow the “ask” with any needed context or content to help them do what you’ve asked.

As with Email Etiquette Rule #3, flipping the explanations with the ask helps us focus our thinking and make our readers’ jobs easier.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Email Etiquette Rule #3

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Reading time: 2 min.

Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #3:

Use one-word tags and short, meaningful summaries on subject lines.

Our email inboxes are so ever-full that we all struggle to get through them. Help your readers see and act on your email with smart subject lines.

At the beginning of the subject line, put a one-word tag that describes the type of request you are making in this email. To help it stand out, write the tag in all caps followed by a colon. Common tags are:

  • ACTION: An email with this tag is asking the reader for a specific action.Help them scan Focus self
    Rewrite and add tags to replies (as needed) and forwarded emails.
  • QUESTION: This email is asking the reader for an answer to a question.
  • READ: This email contains something you would like the reader to read but take no further action on.

Though you might find a need for other tags in your company, keep the set of different tags small for consistency and clarity.

After the tag, include a very brief but meaningful summary of the email. We can usually do this with 3 to 5 words selected to help your reader.

Examples of poor subject line summaries are, “Sales”, “Sales Meeting”, and “4th quarter sales meeting covering forecasts, staffing, and and customer service initiatives.” The first two are too short and generic. The last one is too long and detailed. But “4th quarter sales meeting agenda” gives just enough insight into the topic of the email to help your readers notice and handle it.

Because tags and summaries are so helpful, let’s use them to rewrite the subject lines on replies (as needed) and on forwarded emails.

Smart subject lines make our emails easier for our readers to process.  They also help us keep the body of the email clean and focused. More on that in the next Email Etiquette Rule.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Email Etiquette Rule #2

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Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #2:

No “See below”

When forwarding an email or email stream with perhaps a comment or two and the dreaded “See below”, we are wasting our readers’ time. They have to plow through pages of often repeated, out-of-sequence emails and try to piece together what it all means and what they are supposed to do with it. Many won’t even bother.

To forward an email well, take a moment to describe what is important in the forwarded email, why it matters to the reader, and what you recommend or request that they do with it.

This small investment paid ‘forward’ 😀 will help keep email safe and productive for all.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Email Etiquette Rule #1

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Reading time: 2 min.

Email remains a vital business tool. And, for many reasons, it is one we love to hate. If we all follow a few etiquette rules, email can become much more useful and much less painful.

Here is Email Etiquette Rule #1:

Use at most one emotional word per email.

If what we have to communicate is at all emotionally charged for us or for our recipient, we are much better to use email to schedule a live (in person or over the phone) meeting to discuss the issue.

Tempting as it may be to use email to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, don’t do it. Email (and all text) is a very narrow pipe for communication. It can’t handle –even with emoji–the nuances we send and receive in live conversation. We will be much more likely to miscommunicate, misinterpret, and misunderstand each other. And we will very likely fail to resolve the original issue without significant reworking and revisiting the topic.

Of course, we must have emotionally charged conversations. Just not over email.

We can express some emotion over email. If we limit ourselves to one word of emotion per email, we will usually be safe. Examples include, “I am very happy to hear that,” and, “I am frustrated at our lack of progress.”

 

In your corner,

 

Mike

PS: One way to tell if an email is emotionally charged is to ask ourselves how we feel while composing it.

 

Today’s photo courtesy of Free-Photos.

How to Break Out of the Activity Over Results Trap

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It’s very easy for us to fall into the “Activity Over Results” trap. In this trap, we unconsciously judge ourselves and others by how much activity we generate. But, deep down, we much more value achieving desired results. We spend a large amount of our time on lots of low-value activities including most of our email, Slacks, and meetings. We see every day how volumes of these activities fail to deliver the results we want.

Here is one good method to shift things.

First, we commit to weekly and daily review times. We use this time to get atop any messages or notes that may have potential tasks within. We put all those potential tasks into our Not To Do list. Next, we scan our calendar and survey our lists of on-going projects and longer-term goals. Then, if this is our weekly review, we select and write down four big things from our projects, goals, and Not To Do list that we want to accomplish this week. We next select and write down four things we want to accomplish today. Then we start doing those four things.

Will this Review-Plus-Fours approach eliminate the messages and meetings? No. But it returns to us the focus we need. And we will be much more likely to achieve what we want.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Claudio Jofré Larenas cc

invaders!

Secret Weapon Against Invading Emails

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There they are. Staring at us. Draining us. We spend lots of energy resisting and attacking them. And just as we think we’ve conquered them, more appear, invading our inboxes and starting to close in!

Like sci-fi monsters from the fifties, emails can trap us. Just sitting in our inboxes, they can paralyze us: “What can we do?!” Until, that is, we develop the secret weapon. The movieland scientists had things like Xenon Rays to take down their monsters. We have Four Questions:

  1. What work? What effort, if any, do we choose to do based on this email? Note the effort may be a simple task (a call, an email), a mini-project of several tasks, or simply noting that we are waiting for someone else’s response.
  2. Now or later? If we have identified a task, can we do it now, in two minutes or less? Then we do it. If not, we put it on a list for later.
  3. Keep for reference? If we need to keep this email (and/or its attachments) for reference, archive it.
  4. Delete? If we don’t archive it, we delete it.

Dedicate the time and use this weapon on each email. No more shall they linger in our inbox and threaten our peace!

 

In your corner,

Mike

PSCue dramatic victory music. 😉

 

Today’s photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

too much

Too Much Email, Too Many Meetings

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Meetings and emails can certainly overwhelm us. Each one represents another request–or twelve!–to do something. How can this keep going? How can we possibly get everything done?

Our job is not to get it all done. We are neither supposed to answer every email nor attend every meeting. We cannot possibly satisfy every request. We will flame out trying.

We can try saying no. Or we can commit to applying our talents and caring to helping others achieve wonderful results. We can commit to the achieving such results for us, too. We can use our discernment to find the best route to those results. And we can give others the same leeway as they support us.

It’s not that we need to do it all or learn to say no. We instead simply negotiate–with calm respect–what gets done by when.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Em Bhoo via photopin cc

email

Email: Servant or Master?

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Email does its job well. It facilitates modern communication. It is fast, rich in capability, and easy to use. Almost everyone we know uses email daily.

When we are at its beck and call, however, we are miserable. Our email apps tend to be always on, always pinging. Notifications flash and pop up constantly. Feeling pressure to be responsive, we tackle emails morning, noon, and night. Lacking a system to track our work and know we are always working on the most compelling thing, we use our inbox as an imperfect to do list and let other people’s emails dictate our work.

When we use email (instead of a call or meeting) for anything more than a simple transaction, we potentially harm our ability to lead, sell, or influence.

To remaster email, try these tips:

  • Turn you email off. Shut down Outlook.Turn off your email notifications on your phone, tablet, and desktop.
  • At the start of your day, pick what you are going to get done today, then start doing instead of opening your email and getting drawn into its vortex.
  • Schedule specific times during the day for processing your emails. (Example:  10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm.) Train people to know that you only read email occasionally. Ask them to call or visit instead,
  • When you do process your email, MOD each email item until your inbox is empty. .
  • Use a system (and here and here) to track what you might work on and to always know that you are working on the best thing.
  • If you need to communicate anything complex or which may have some emotion to it, call or meet instead of email. It saves time in the long run.
  • Avoid using cc: and bcc just to “keep others in the loop.”
  • Prefix your email subject lines with common tags to let your recipients know what kind of email you are sending. Examples:
    • [FYI] for non-actionable information
    • [ActReq] for emails containing a request for action of the recipient
    • [Read] for information that needs to be read in preparation for an upcoming meeting

Remember: email is a wonderful servant and an awful master.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Jonathon Narvey via photopin cc