Friday, 15 April 2011

5 Rules for Email Emancipation

Is email managing you or are you managing your email? Meetings used to take up every spare minute of the day and now there's email to contend with before, during and after all those meetings. The amount of time we spend in front of our computers has taken the personal out of almost all our interactions and we're probably still not getting any real work done.

Here are 5 Rules or suggestions on how to take control back and liberate yourself from the burden of email, bring some personal back into play and become the IT Managers new best friend.

  1. Addressing – if you’re going to ask someone to do something in the body of the email make sure they are addressed correctly in the email by putting them in the ‘To’ box. Cc’ing people says this is for their info / to keep them in the loop/up to date. Just as meeting etiquette says don’t assign actions to someone who wasn’t in the meeting, email etiquette says you use the To and CC boxes correctly.
  2. Rules – reduce the volume in your Inbox through rules. Creating a cc rule for example is a great way to sort the wheat from the chaff. When emails arrive with your address in the cc box the cc rule will shift them straight into your cc box on arrival. You can then focus on those emails addressed to you that need your action or attention (refer Rule 1 above) and get up to speed on those cc ones at a time you’ve allocated for clearing your cc box.
  3. Attachments – remember the last 10mb file attachment you received that ground your system to a complete halt? It’s easy to click that attachment button sending huge files to multiple people without thinking of the consequences but don’t be surprised the next time your IT Manager tells you how much the extra disk space is going to cost for the overloaded email server. 1 x 10mb file x 10 people on your distribution list is a reasonable chunk of storage in one foul swoop. Think before you click! Try using something like – share files securely on-line for free!
  4. Folders – Anyone can create a folder and drag and drop emails into it. Keep your sent and deleted files by using an Archive. Move decisions and agreements or emails about budgets or pricing off into separate folders. There’s no rule regarding naming conventions or structures just as there are no rules for your paper filing cabinets. Figure out what works for you and add / adjust over time based on purpose and project. Then create rules (refer 2 above) and voila, your email filing system is working for you.
  5. Salutations and Content – both need to be appropriate for the audience, your relationship with them and the subject matter. It’s non-sensicle to use ‘Dear’ when ‘Hi’ is more appropriate. We can all type content we read to be non-contentious, clear and concise. Problem is we’re not the receiver and the receiver reads it with their own interpretation and meaning. There’s no magic wand for this problem because where there are people there is personal interpretation. So perhaps keeping to the point and laying out the facts is a good starting place, then pick up the phone or go and see the receiver in person for anything else.
Footnote: If the person is sitting next to you, down the hall, or somewhere within coo-ee of your timezone pick up the phone and call them. It may turn out that email you were going to write was going to be sent barking up the wrong tree.

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