7 Email Habits of Highly Successful Business People
Let’s sum up where we are in the email world: If the average person sends 50 emails a day, and there are 10 people in the office, that would be 500 per day. If we look at the typical workweek, that would be 2,500 emails are sent a week. That seems like a lot until you compare it to the entire company. Let’s say it’s a fair sized company of 5,000 people. That would mean the company is sending a cool 1,250,000 emails in a week. Now you can juggle those numbers however you want, but even if you drop the average amount of emails per person to 30, that is still a lot of emails. That’s just one company. How many companies do you deal with? And yet we wonder why our email in-boxes are so full?
The two main reasons we send emails are: they take less time, and they serve as a “paper” trail of what has gone on between you and other people. Yes, it’s proof of what you have done. Whether you believe they communicate messages well or not is not the argument because we know that emails will be used no matter what and we need to figure out the best way to use them. So, here are 7 ideas on how to handle emails more effectively.
- The Subject Line. This should really be a “Head-line.” How many times do we get emails with a subject line reading, “For You” and we have no idea what it is about? Let’s save everyone a lot of time by making the subject line meaningful. How about a subject line that reads, “Draft conclusion para for Project X. Due in 2 days.” The person receiving this can see whom it’s from, put 2 and 2 together and recognize its importance immediately. Or, “Mr. Barker’s itinerary for Denver trip 10-17 Sep 15” which gives those people associated with Mr. Baker and/or the trip the needed information, but several people who just need to be aware can put that email in a separate folder for later. The subject line should be informative and/or instructive.
- Be Brief, as possible. Okay, someone sends you an email and when you open it up, it takes up your entire computer screen with verbiage – what is your first thought? Delete? Not now? Forget this? But if they send you an email and it’s two lines long, will you read that? Most people say, “Yes.” So, in order to get somebody to read what you need them to read, send them a powerful two-line email motivating them to read THE ATTACHMENT you have placed at the bottom. People will expect the attachment to have more information so they will open it when they have time, but they won’t delete it.
And by the way, in an effort to be brief, DO NOT use text message abbreviations in an email. Save that for personal text messaging.
- If you are looking for an answer, make it easy to answer. After you have given the information needed, finish with a line stating what you need in return. For example: “Please reply with the number of people attending the meeting” or “Do you agree or disagree with the proposed budget for this project?” Make it easy for them to hit the reply button, and give you a one line answer – and you’ll probably get it.
- Don’t send “To All” unless absolutely necessary. I believe there should be a license or certificate you must earn in order to have the right to address an email with, “To All.” When you do this you are cluttering up everyone’s email box with an email that may not be pertinent to them. Then the worst of all happens when they return the email addressed to, “Reply to all” telling the person not to do that again. And then the worst of the worst happens when 15 other people respond in like manner!! It’s laughable how bad it can get! So, unless it’s pivotal to the success of the company, try not to address any email with, “To All.”
- Proofread IT! Please, take a minute to read what you have just written before you send your email. This will help everyone. Few of us are really good writers, especially with the first draft and many of us fall prey to the “stream of consciousness” style of writing, which is fine if you are writing to yourself, but not so good when you expect someone else to understand it. I know you don’t think that reading it over will help but it does.
Here is proof. Write an email tomorrow morning, about 9am, just like you normally would, but do NOT send it. Put it in your “draft” folder. Then, about 3pm in the afternoon, pull it out and read it. I defy you to send it without changing it. This will show you what proof reading can do for you. Remember, what you send out in print makes an impression – to everyone, both up and down the chain of command…and it lasts forever.
- Read and answer your emails in “bulk.” Set two or three times of the day you will go into your emails and work them. Now, if you are expecting something important at a specific time, you can go into your email account then, but otherwise, pick three times and work the emails then. If you leave the “notification sound” on, every time it sounds it will distract you from your work, break your focus, and pull you into the “email vortex” and you’ll be lost for 20-30 minutes. This can be extremely disruptive and very unproductive. So, turn off the notification sound. You pick the times, but stick to them if at all possible. (By the way, for those of you who have notifications on your smartphone, turn them off as well.)
- Best (and the most novel approach) of ALL… Pick up the phone first. If your email was misunderstood for any reason, it will not be a time saver. It will be a time eater. And here is why: it will require another email from the receiver asking what your email meant, and you’ll send a return email to explain, and there will be another returned email to confirm…and it goes on.
Instead, when you receive an email demanding a particularly problematic response, pick up the phone and answer that email. After the call, THEN you can send an email stating what you just talked about (for historic reasons). If the person doesn’t answer, leave them a message stating you received their email and want to answer in person or on the phone at their earliest convenience. In the long run it will be better, faster, and more intelligent. Emails are rational and phone calls have emotion, which helps make the message clearer. Try it. It will shock your peers.
Emails have become the accepted business norm and they are here to stay. As good as they are, we should never forget they are a far cry from a face-to-face conversation or a good phone call. Never use them to send a message of sympathy, apology, or criticism. These all deserve a face-to-face conversation or at least a heart-felt phone call. Remember, emails are rational and not good conductors of emotion.
Now you can use an email to forward this blog to someone you know…