The email is a communication medium still used by billions of people around the world. From personal to marketing purposes, everyone sends and receives tens of emails every day. It’s also an important element of our lives at work. So let’s take a closer look at when to use it and how to improve our email productivity.
Seven tips & tricks
For most office workers, writing, reading, and replying to emails is part of their job description. But just because you are doing an action very often, it doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement.
Every professional seeks to maximize their productivity with every single task they are performing. In this article, we will discuss a few strategies that will help you improve your email productivity.
1. Effective subject line
The subject line is what makes the difference between an email that is opened immediately and one that may linger in the inbox for days or never be opened at all. Writing the perfect subject line is what copywriters and marketing strategists put the most thought into.
Even if you’re not writing a sales email, you should still put some thought into the subject line. This is where you should make your expectations clear in the first place. Do you expect an answer ASAP? Add that to the subject line. Is it just an informative email that requires no action? Specify it. Let the other person know what to expect and what you expect from them.
2. Use the recipient fields effectively
How many times were you added in a series of replies between a group of people, even though you were not the primary recipient of the email? More often than not, people ignore the CC field and put all recipients in the To field, creating confusion that leads to useless questions and clarifications. The correct way to do it: list only those who need to take action in the To field. Everyone else who is receiving the email only for information purposes should be in CC.
The BCC, on the other hand, should only be used to protect the privacy of all recipients, or when you are about to drop someone from a series of emails and want them to receive that one email. In this case, you should politely announce they will not be included in the conversation from that point on, so the next person to hit reply all will only reply to the persons relevant to the conversation.
3. Keep it short
The most effective emails have under 300 words. If you need to write more, create and attach a document. Write the essential parts in the body of the email, and save the details for the attachment.
And lets not forget that the more you write, the bigger the chance of going unread. So, keep it concise and correct.
4. Avoid too many back-and-forths
The email is not meant to be a synchronous communication tool. For that, we have messenger, chat, and specifically designed communication apps, such as Hubgets.
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If the email turns into a conversation, pick up the phone or use an instant communication app to sort things out faster. To keep your email productivity high, avoid too many back and forths.
5. Pay attention to formatting
Formatting is important for your reader, so pay attention to how you write your emails:
- Use short sentences and paragraphs so people can scan through the content faster.
- Avoid passive voice and words that might create confusion or uncertainty. You should avoid phrases such as “I feel like..” or “I am not sure if…”.
- Know what you want and be assertive. Be concise and say exactly what you expect
- Add bullet points to separate your ideas. It makes it easier for the reader to follow than full blocks of text.
- Bold the important parts but don’t overdo it. It’s never a great idea to bold whole paragraphs. For example, if you announce a meeting, bold the time and date. The idea behind this practice is to help people see and remember the essential parts.
Think about it this way: the easier to read, the higher the chance it will actually be read. This is beyond email productivity, it’s about being sure the delivered information is actually received.
6. Have a healthy email routine
Research shows that, on average, people with office jobs check their emails 74 times per day. Many do it as often as every five minutes! These interruptions come at a big cost: derailed focus, constant anxiety and stress, wasted time. In other words, checking your email that often is a massive productivity killer.
A healthy email routine means that you should check your email about three times during the day. Check your email once during the first part of the day, again around lunchtime, and once more before checking out at the end of the day. Add it to your daily calendar and stick to the schedule.
As a rule of thumb, you should also avoid checking your email early in the morning. Most people check their email on the phone even before getting out of bed. However, you probably know that one bad email can ruin your whole day. Therefore, it’s better to start your day by accomplishing the most difficult task on your calendar, and only then proceed to checking and answering emails.
7. Develop a workflow
What emails do you answer? What emails do you answer first? What should you do with the emails you don’t answer? You most definitely need a protocol in place to help with your email workflow. Here is a very straightforward example:
- If the email doesn’t require any action, you should archive it.
- If the email requires action or a short response, do it on the spot, then archive it.
- If an email requires a longer action or response, put it in a dedicated urgent folder. Get back to it as soon as you’re done with the no-action and short action emails.
To email or not to email
There are situations when writing an email is the best option you have. Just think about that meeting that should have been an email 🙂
Yet, the email lacks social cues, even the ones that are available on instant messaging. This makes it unsuitable for handling delicate conversations, brainstorming ideas, decision-making, or debating important issues. So, even though it’s still far from being obsolete, there are more suitable alternatives for your communication needs that you should really be looking into.
Whichever medium you choose for your communication, always consider the message you want to convey and how you want to build your conversation.