How you can now have less stress with e-mails
Chapter 22 from the CHANGE JOURNAL »
Ever since the discovery of the Internet, our day-to-day life has changed significantly: The constant flow of incoming emails that reach us daily has made us forget how to determine what is essential and what is irrelevant.
Can we do something about it? Is there some strategy for dealing with dozens of emails per day, tendency increasing? And if so, what does it look like? Have we noticed that about two-thirds of all emails are not important? So why do we still feel guilty about possibly overlooking something?
It’s time for us to be aware of what’s happening! And to start questioning what we have come to accept as perfectly usual. With just a few simple hacks, you can turn your email traffic into a more productive journey: Here are a few traffic lights, a highway, and maybe some stop signs that can help you focus, save time – and be more efficient.
1) Cancel newsletters.
You want to be on top of things, sure. But in every field? How many of those newsletters regularly delivered to your mailbox are really worth opening? Just reassess what you can do without, click the unsubscribe link here and there, and relax. The site unroll.me makes it even easier to cancel several subscriptions in one go.
2) Avoid the boomerang.
How often do we fire an email to give quick feedback ... and then suddenly, the lines blur between email and chat. You find yourself in an annoying back-and-forth. A brief phone call can be much more efficient. If it needs to be written, you can keep dialogue to a minimum.
a) Every mail you send may lead to a string of follow-up emails. b) If you need to ask for something, go for it! Being on point and friendly at the same time is not contradictory!
c) If you were the recipient of your mail, would you know what is expected of you? If this isn’t the case, make clarifying changes to your mail.
d) Only send copies of your emails to people who need to know. The more recipients, the less each individual will feel personally addressed. In the worst case, you could provoke a response from someone who doesn’t even have a say.
“We can and should avoid (excess) emails. Five less daily would add up to 1,825 fewer emails per year!”
3) Avoid organizing.
“We can and should avoid (excess) emails. Five less daily would add up to 1,825 fewer emails per year!” Dividing your emails among various sub-folders means unnecessary work. Contrary to previous assumptions, this was proven in an IBM study. So leave the inbox as is and use the search function if necessary.
4) Avoid writing emails when you feel emotional.
You’re angry, sad, disappointed, or frustrated: It’s only human that you may overreact. You might even write something now that you’ll regret later. There are two options:
- If possible, help yourself eliminate the pressure, for example, through meditating or screaming ;)
- If not, wait a couple of hours until you’ve cooled down, then write the mail ... if you still consider it necessary.
5) Edit your emails in batches.
Every “ping” of incoming mail distracts us from our current workflow. Whenever possible, open your email client only two or three times daily. Reserve certain blocks of time for this in your schedule. Ideally, some things have been resolved or become obsolete in your “absence” ...
6) Use the autoresponder function.
Whenever you’re unavailable and/or not reading emails, ensure your contacts learn about this in time. This is when you can switch on the autoresponder. For a job-related absence, you should always name a person who will take over in urgent cases. That’s not only fair to the sender. It also increases the likelihood that the matter will be clarified when you are available again. Incidentally, you’re increasing the possibility that the issue has long since been clarified when you are back on the job.
7) Radical deletion.
Some of my friends do this: When they return from vacation, the first thing they do is delete the entire inbox. Click – gone! That seems pretty cold initially, but the logic is simple: If it is essential, the sender will check back again. And if that doesn’t happen, it’s been taken care of. Of course, you can only do this if the autoresponder was activated in your absence!
8) The magic word.
It’s always annoying when you don’t get an answer to one of your emails. However, the reason could be simple: A study has shown that emails that end with “thank you” tend to get significantly more replies. Specifically, emails that were concluded with the line, “Thank you in advance for...” drew over one-third more responses than all others. It looks like respectful communication in real-life also applies to emails!
9) General tips.
- Keep each email as brief as possible. That saves you time and also respects that of the recipient.
- Be as informative as possible in the subject line. Instead of announcing “Customer alert!”, it’s certainly more effective to say, “Important: Customer in-house on Tuesday!”.
- Give the recipient a chance to instantly understand what your message is about. When writing to a new contact, add: “We met yesterday at the workshop.” Or when addressing a colleague: “It’s about that mess in the kitchen.”
- Mention your crucial point right at the beginning, not towards the end. First things first!
- It’s sometimes difficult to gauge whether something is urgent or not. Say it! If there is a deadline, then name it. If the info isn’t all that important, then say so. If it’s FYI, it’s probably best to put these three letters at the beginning of the subject line.
- Try to be as concise as possible. Make a suggestion. That’s certainly better than asking, “What do you think about this offer?” Make it more specific: “Can we sign off on this offer by Friday?”.
- Important content can be lost in a larger body of text. That’s why paragraphs, bullets, or lists often help make it more understandable.
- If something is essential, then mark it in bold or underline it. Please don’t overdo it.
- If you can’t respond in detail to an urgent email immediately, let the sender know. Ideally, include when they can expect your reply in this feedback.
- Is an emoji really such a brilliant idea in the context of the email you are about to send? It could harbor the risk of turning your mail exchange into a chat.
Some things may seem obvious to you – that’s great! I believe you can never receive enough tips to protect yourself more effectively against the ever-growing avalanches of electronic mail. There are enough trolls out there who are senselessly crowding inboxes worldwide. Please don’t become one of them. ;)