I work with some people who get emails constantly. They get so many emails that they need to spend their after-hours (their pre-9am and post-5pm) doing real work. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to focus if that was me!
There are a lot out of articles there that suggest people should only respond to emails at only significant times in the day, and turn it off otherwise etc. but I think the problem needs to be nipped in the bud at the source: the sender.
So, before you send that email, think about a few things to maximize your time and to help minimize others’ efforts.
How long is the email?
Paragraph after paragraph might feel great to you (like a diary, you’re putting it all out there and getting it off your chest) but it’s an inefficient way to communicate. Summarize the background in one sentence and then propose what you need the recipient to do for you in another. Use bullets (see point #3) and clearly communicate what you’re needing people to do. Lengthy emails are a pain #longread and do not have any place in the modern, busy world.
Do I need to CC this person?
Putting someone on a CC might sound like a good idea (an especially good idea if they’ve asked to be cc’ed) but needlessly copying people is a surefire way to annoy. If it’s really important, they can ask you about it later. Did you email the caterer? Yes. But I didn’t cc you because I just got it done. Bravo. Your supervisor(s) do not need to know everything you’re emailing about unless that information is critical to them. Think before you cc.
Visually communicate your message
Have an important deadline to communicate? Put it in bold! You’ll look organized vs overbearing by highlighting the important elements in your email vs burying them. I have received emails full of instructions that are completely scattered, I feel like Indiana Jones trying to hunt them all down. An email should be read once and them comprehended. Bold, change font colour, highlight – anything you can do to succinctly tell your recipient what is needed and what’s priority.
Wait five minutes before you send
If you’re like me, you read, re-read, re-re-read emails before they’re sent. And, of course, add a few more re-reads in there if the email is going to a stakeholder. Typos, grammatical errors, gaping errors like incorrect files, links or names are enough for the recipient to gawk at and often require multiple back and forths to remedy. Make sure that before you send your email you’ve gone over the essentials.
Try these tips the next time you’re about to send the bible to your colleagues. Make sure it’s more like the 10 commandments.