Every company has that one employee who sends too many emails. If you can’t think of that person – it might be you!
Email is one of the most abused forms of communication, which is why companies like Slack are developing alternatives.
Think back to the last time you were glued to your computer, furiously typing away at a report due in an hour, when an email notification pops up: “Important – Need Your Advice.” You open it up, and someone is asking the entire office for their opinion on what color post-it notes to order. There goes your concentration!
Of course, email interruptions aren’t always that dramatic. But in an ‘always-on environment’ where phones ring and watches buzz every time an email is received, a little bit of discretion could go a long way when it comes to sending emails.
According to Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, an average employee will be distracted every 3 minutes, by a colleague, notification, text message, or their own wandering brain. What’s worse; it takes about 23 minutes to regain the focus that was lost by the distraction. Do you really want to do that to your coworkers?
So before you send your next email (or even begin typing it), go through this quick checklist to ensure you are sending a valuable and relevant email – not another interruption.
Am I CC’ing People Who Don’t Need to Be Included?
At one point or another, we’ve probably all been guilty of this one. Email apps make it easy to add recipients by autofilling – you start typing the first two letters and you’ve got John from accounting populated in you CC list. But just because you would like someone to see your email, doesn’t mean they need to see it. Take a moment to consider if the person on the other end will truly benefit from your message, or if they will be an uninvolved observer.
Does This Email Have a Clear Action or Request?
This is a big problem for emails with large groups of people. When an email doesn’t have a clear directive for specific people, it leaves the readers confused, encourages them to ignore the email, and lets them assume someone else will reply or take action. For this reason, avoid open ended questions or statements such as:
- Seems like we need to rethink our strategy, right guys?
- This is something we should probably deal with soon.
- Can somebody take care of this?
Is This Email Truly Time Sensitive?
People want to have their emails read. That’s why they send them. So to make sure their email is opened, they’ll go to great lengths to bend the subject line: “Super Important – Need Immediate Response.” If you’ve sent this email or a similar one, take a step back and ask yourself if it really does require an immediate response – or consider alternate methods of communication:
Could This be Handled With a Phone Call?
These days, it seems like some people would rather have a root canal than pick up a phone and speak to someone 1-on-1. Perhaps we can blame Millennials for this shift in communication preferences, but ultimately it has lead to more emails.
How often have you found yourself in a never ending back and forth over email? The kind where you and the other party are replying to each other within seconds of receiving the other’s reply?
Often, it’s easier (and faster) to express a thought over a phone call, so take your hands off the keyboard and pick up the phone!
Does This Email Ramble?
Executive Coach May Busch states: “Email can play an important role when it comes to being an effective communicator and managing your personal brand.” One of the three career-limiting archetypes she identifies is the ’email rambler’. Simply put, an email rambler types everything that comes to mind. The email becomes long, disorganized, and unruly. It’s up to the reader to put the pieces together and organize the sender’s thoughts.
To avoid this – keep your message simple.
Your coworkers don’t have time to read 5-6 paragraphs, so don’t force them to do so. Before hitting send, chop out everything that doesn’t support the most important information. Busch advises that if you have paragraphs of information that you believe are important, put them below your signature as a post script. Those who want the information will read on, and those who require the cliff notes can move along.
Also read: Is Your Career Vibe Holding You Back?
Have your own guidelines when it comes to sending emails? Share in the comments below!