How to go from inbox captivity to email ecstasy - Part Three - Tactical Tips
After choosing the prosperous project leader philosophy for email in part one of this series of articles, and email success strategies in part two, let's discuss success tactics. Email success tactics focus solely on efficiency. What is the fastest way to process inbound and outbound emails so that you can invest time in addressing important project issues?
Here are wining tactical tips with email.
1. Turn off notifications for incoming email. No pop ups should flash on your screen. No sounds when you get new email. Email is your tool not your master that requires you to jump when you receive an email. Remember that if something was critically urgent then someone would call you. Nobody sends an email to 911 - they call. Income email can wait until you get to it.
2. Automate outbound emails. Find out how you can make your email application add an automatic signature for outbound emails. Find out if you can program a macro or use a standard template for emails that you frequently send. I observed a person who claims to be overworked, manually add a signature block every time she sends an email. Multiply it by hundreds of emails a day, and you will see why she has so little time to address important project issues.
3. Automatically sort incoming emails. Setup rules in your email application to filter your incoming mail. Some emails can be deleted directly. Others can be sorted into appropriate folders. Don't allow emails into your inbox if they should be sent directly to the trash.
4. Monitor your email efficiency. Occasionally, take a day to and keep a time log of how much time you spend on email. How much time do you spend on reading email? How long do you spend on crafting and sending emails? Then commit to reducing this time investment. Does it take you five minutes to craft an email? How can you reduce it to under one minute? Could you call the respondent and close the issue out in under two minutes instead of three emails with responses?
5. Use Out of Office etiquette. Tell people that you are out of the office, who to contact in your absence, and when you will be back.
6. Perfection is dysfunctional. When you have crafted your email, proofread it and send it. Don't pursue perfection. If your email requires proofreading by your manager, then something is probably wrong. You have the wrong communication channel or not the required authority. Maybe you should not be sending the email?
7. Don't be a "topper". You don't have to have the last word. It is OK for someone to send you an email that does not require your response. If you insist on always having the last word, then people will stop sending you emails, because you train them to expect an email return on every email which then adds to their workload. Don't give your unsolicited feedback on every email that your project team sends you. Your team will exclude you from future communications if you insist on always "topping" them. "Topping" others is a manifestation of your insecurities - get therapy, don't burden your team with them.
8. Make your email signature functional. Your email signature should briefly state who you are how to contact you. Include your email address, office and cell phone telephone numbers. Don't put your philosophical quotes in your email signature or your life history. Add your professional certifications if they are appropriate and relevant.
9. Don't forward jokes. Don't forward your favorite quote to your project team. If you have a relationship with friends who are likely to enjoy the joke or funny video clip, then send it along. I don't want to sort through emails about a "Latest computer virus" or "Joke of the day".
10. Cool it. If you doubt about whether you should send the email that you hastily wrote in response to an emotional issue, then don't send it. Delete it until you have had time to digest and process the issue. The rule of thumb is "If you are angry when writing the email, then don't send it".
11. Desperation tip. If you are temporarily overwhelmed with incoming email while you are managing a crisis situation then create an email folder titled "Will get to these emails later". Move emails from your inbox into this folder and to stay focused on the crisis in front of you.
This series of three articles provides you with the philosophy, strategies and tactics to go from inbox captivity to email ecstasy. Apply this knowledge to improve your project leadership effectiveness and the resulting prosperity. Neither I nor your team ever want to hear that you are in "email jail" again.