Click on the arrow below to listen to this story
One of my mentors, Darren Hardy, offers a list of email best practices that I think would be highly valuable to anyone, especially those who rely on email for business.
Email is an uncaged monster that can quickly wreck havoc on your business and professional life.
Some of Darren’s suggestions that I found particularly helpful include:
1. Descriptive subject lines.
I’m guilty of doing this, too, when sending out routine messages. For example, I have been sending out links to my clients whenever I post a new podcast, and the subject line has always been “Links to today’s podcasts.”
Using the same subject line over and over again makes it impossible to find specific messages. I also plan to stop using “Can you do me a favor,” “For your review” and similar boilerplate subject lines.
2. Use only one topic per email.
Nothing drives me crazier faster than having to wade through a thread of dozens of messages to find the one email that provided information for a new project.
If the thread concerns an upcoming convention, why hijack that message to provide information about an unrelated conference call?
That’s especially frustrating when you have just a few minutes before an online meeting starts, and you must waste time scrolling through dozens of emails looking for the one with a link to the Zoom meeting.
3. Unless a response is required, then don’t respond.
I know thanking people is the nice thing to do. But, if you’re trying to cut down the number of messages you process each day, then having to open and delete dozens that say “Thanks for your help,” really slows down the process.
This is especially frustrating with a group message sent to 10 people. If just four of them hit “reply all” to say thank you, that’s 40 unnecessary messages traversing cyber space and cluttering up inboxes everywhere.
On a side note, how often do you clean out your deleted messages folder?
I just checked mine and found 12,230 messages that were 9 months old or newer. Deleted messages just take up storage space and, when you’re searching for messages, many email programs also scan the deleted messages folder to return useless results.
4. Reduce the number of messages sent to multiple people.
I know some bosses want to be copied on every message an employee sends out. But, do you really have to alert the entire team that you have a meeting scheduled next week with a prospect or that you are taking an extended lunch?
There are all kinds of horror stories about people making embarrassing comments in “reply all” messages.
My email system with GoDaddy allows me to completely remove my reply all button from the task bar. That way, I can’t ever reply to everyone by mistake. If it were necessary, the feature to reply all can be found in a “more actions” drop down button.
5. Write in bullet points
This is good advice for not just email, but any type of writing.
The old way of creating paragraphs with a controlling purpose and three main points went out the window decades ago.
People are scanners today. They are trying to process information quickly, and they do it by skimming a document with their eyes and looking for main themes and key information.
This is especially true for people reading messages or stories on the smaller screens of mobile devices.
I had someone post a comment to my website the other day that was 657 words in three giant blocks. On a cell phone, to read that comment would have required scanning a 16-inch paragraph. I deleted it.
Email is a blessing for communicating quickly without requiring thumbs only to bang out messages on a smart phone, but it can also be a curse in the volume of messages that must be processed daily.
Just a little extra attention by each of us can help reduce the email burden we impose on many other people.