Time Management Issues: Email

“The Death of Email” is something that’s been foretold for over 10 years now. And whether you love it or hate it, email is not going anywhere. Not any time soon, however.

There are other tools that have come along and tried to supplant email, but at this point, these programs are merely supplemental tools. Albeit, very good tools.

We use email for external communications. For internal communications and collaboration, there are 2 main tools that we use to make email more efficient. The first tool is Slack. Slack is a great tool for internal communications. The second tool is Trello. Trello is great for collaboration.

I get very frustrated with email as an internal communication tool. Here is how I try to handle email and want my teams to handle email:

  1. Set aside very specific times in the day to read and respond to emails. I try to do this 3 times per day: once in the morning, once around mid-day, and once at the end of the day. Sometimes I check email after hours, but I try not to. If you are customer/client facing, you will likely have to check emails more frequently. But, unless your primary role is answering customer or client emails, turn off email notifications and check emails at specific, scheduled, times of the day.
  2. Touch it once, pass it on. This is the ideal way to handle email. If it’s important, deal with it. If an email requires a response, respond. If you need more information before you can provide an accurate response, then respond to the email with that level of information. (“I have received your email, but I do not have the information yet to provide a response. I should respond in the next “X” hours/days.”) If the email does not require a response, read it and move on. Don’t leave it flagged. If someone else needs to information, forward it. But make sure it has the correct subject line.
  3. Make sure the email has the correct subject line. That is, make sure that the subject line gives the receiver an idea of what’s going to be in the email. If the email is a long thread/conversation and the subject, or topic, changes, then change the subject line. This will help for current efficiency. It will also help when looking back through emails for specific topics.
  4. No long, rambling emails. Unless you’re sending a personal email to your grandmother, there should be no long, rambling emails. Sometimes you have to send several paragraphs to someone outside the company. But, overall, emails should be brief and/or well thought out. For internal issues, use something like Slack and Trello.
  5. Ask: “Will it hurt me or the company if I do nothing with this email?” If the answer is a strong “No,” then forget about it. If the answer is “Yes” or even “Maybe,” then answer or forward the email promptly.

While texting and other programs have become efficient communication tools, email is still a powerful and, when used properly, efficient tool for communication.

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