“We have to make sure technology is enhancing our relationships, not replacing them. We need to make sure our ability to communicate doesn’t cause us to talk more while actually saying less.” Craig Groeschel
Methods of communication are constantly evolving. Craig’s right, we need to make sure that the way we communicate through technology is benefiting our relationships, helping us to have a better work environment and aid us in becoming more productive.
Whether you love or hate them, emails are here to stay. They’re a universally accepted method of communicating. The problem with them is that far too often they don’t have the intended impact of enhancing our relationships or they seem to get in the way of doing ‘the real work’.
Here are 10 practical rules of emails which I’ve found helpful and if you choose to follow them you’ll hopefully find emails becoming just a little less overwhelming and help emails become a tool to use rather than a pain the backside.
1. Ask yourself should I communicate this with an email?
Everything that you think doesn’t need to be said or emailed. There are also other ways to communicate with someone. First of all, ask yourself ‘should I communicate this with an email’?
If you’ll become anxious waiting on a reply to your email or you need an urgent answer, it’s possible that email is not the best way to communicate in this moment. Give the person a call or speak face to face. This way you will get an immediate response.
If you’re feeling upset or angry or you’re not sure you should send what you want to say as an email then write a draft email, leave it overnight and then in the morning if you still want to send it hit send.
2. Allow appropriate response time
The person that you’re typing out an email to is not sitting waiting to receive your extremely important email. They have job to do and a life to live. Something’s wrong if we expect instant responses to our emails – unless it’s our organisations policy.
If you require an urgent answer then give the person a call or text message, these generally have a higher success rating in getting a reply you need. Of course, you do not want to be waiting for several weeks for a reply to your email.
I’d suggest that for work emails a 24-48 hour response time during work hours would be reasonable. On day 3 you may want to follow up with a different means of contacting them, whether a text or WhatsApp message or when you see them in the office.
3. Keep it short
I read enough essays during my time of studying Higher English at school. If my inbox if full of long emails, I will not have motivation to reply to you or anyone else. Keep emails as short as possible by covering the essential details briefly.
If there is a lot of information or material to cover in an email consider using concise bullet points, arrange a meeting or make a phone call.
4. Keep it sweet
Have you ever received a text or an email when you’re in a bad mood and totally misinterpreted it? I know I have.
When you’re crafting your email take into consideration how would someone who’s receiving this read it? How well do you know them? Could what you’re writing be taken a different way to how you meant it?
When writing emails err on the side of being more positive.
5. Don’t write what you don’t want shared
My philosophy is that if I want something to be totally private, the only way to guarantee that is to keep it off the internet.
Maybe I’m just a sceptic.
A good rule is if you don’t want something shared then don’t put it on an email. Emails can be forwarded or a screenshot of it can be taken very easily. If you need to discuss something highly confidential then do it in person or on a phone call.
6. Be specific
The likelihood of your email arriving into an inbox that’s already full of dozens of other emails requesting answers is high.
Therefore to make it easier and more efficient for the recipient to process your email; have a clear and specific subject. Keeping your email to one topic of conversation helps to the purpose and aims of the email on track.
7. Indicate the action required
Do you want someone to reply to your email? Do you want them to get you some information? Do you want them to do something for you? Do you want their opinion on something?
If you’re looking for a response from someone let them know as specifically as possible what you’d like.
Writing an email and then summing up an email with ‘Let me know your thoughts’ is likely to get a slower response. What would you actually like their opinion on? Generalisations make the receiver have to do more work, and increases the likelihood of a slower reply, that’s if you get any reply at all.
If you’re trying to arrange a meeting then suggest a time and place to meet. If you leave it too general such as ‘let me know when you’re free’; this makes the other person work harder to work out when they’re free to meet you.
Whatever you’re looking for then make it as easy as possible for the recipient to respond to your email.
Having the action indicated toward the start of the email will prepare the recipient to make a response once they’ve read the email.
8. Never reply all unless necessary or requested
Well, that’s self-explanatory.
Unless the information you’re sending is necessary for all the recipients then there is no need for a ‘reply-all’ response to an email. When replying to a group email only select those that need the reply. Otherwise you end up pilling up the emails in many people’s inboxes.
The problem with this is that the more unnecessary emails you send to someone the more likely they’ll ignore the important ones you’ll send in the future.
9. Proofread your email
How many times have I sent an email discussing an attachment only for the reply to be ‘please remember to send attachment’ Too many.
If we’re sending an attachment double check you’ve attached it. Double check spelling. Double check who you’re sending it to. You do not want to send the wrong emails to the wrong people. If you’re unsure an email makes sense then ask a colleague or friend to read over it for you.
10. Set boundaries on communication
If you are constantly connected to your emails for work or otherwise then it’s time for some down-time.
I do not have my work emails on my phone, I am so glad because I lack the self-control to not look at them all the time. I’d be constantly checking what’s coming in. You see, I’m a people-pleaser, I also feel important when someone emails me. It makes me feel like I am productive, wanted and the centre of the world.
I read recently that it takes your mind half an hour to recover after looking at an email. After reading a work-related email my mind goes off in a hundred different directions. I’m already planning my response, who I need to contact and why the person emailing me is wrong in six different ways. What a way to spend a day off.
Protect your days off by setting healthy boundaries. Remember, work hard and rest well. Your emails will still be there on Monday morning.
Thank you so much for reading, if you found this encouraging and helpful please share it with friends and followers. I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment. Dan 🙂
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