In keeping with this month’s focus on “getting things done,” let’s talk about how to handle email. Have you noticed that the inbox is reaching crisis proportions? The ease of email causes people to be careless about how they use it. It’s SO easy to dash off an email to someone the moment you think of it. And then three hours later when you think of something else… email them again! Apparently businesses lose billions of dollars a year due to loss of productivity from employees dealing with unnecessary emails. I think many of us are just a few rambling emails away from a complete nervous breakdown.
So here are a few tips for handling email more efficiently.
- Keep it brief.
If you can say what you need to in 3 sentences or less, do it! If not, keep it as close to 3 sentences as possible. If you have something in-depth that will take several paragraphs, consider talking to the person instead. You know, talking. Like they used to do in the old days.
- Pause before hitting Send.
Is it completely necessary? Does it have to go NOW? If it can possibly wait, then use the DRAFT function of your email program to save it. Once a day, pull up all your drafts and only send the ones that are still necessary. This is especially handy if you tend to send several emails a week to one person. Can they be consolidated?
- Get to the point.
Make it easy for the recipient to get the gist of your message right away. Don’t ramble.
- Make questions and action points stand out.
DON’T bury your questions throughout the email in the middle of paragraphs! If there is action needed, or a question that needs an answer, make it VERY obvious. For example, you might want to number them and put them at the end of your email.
- Use NNTR.
I’ve started putting “NNTR” at the end of the subject line. It means No Need To Reply. This can save people lots of time and eliminate needless back-and-forth.
- Use EOM.
Another one of my favorites – I put “EOM” at the end of the subject line to indicate “End of Message.” That is, the entire message is in the subject line. So in responding to an email requesting a phone call, my subject line might say, “I’ll call you Tues 3/6 at 4pm eastern — EOM.” And the recipient doesn’t even need to open the email, they’ve got all the info they need.
- Use a relevant subject line.
Try NOT to use a generic subject line, such as “Thought you might want to know…” The subject line is for… wait for it… the actual subject of your email.
- Change the subject line when necessary.
If you’re emailing back and forth with someone, and the topic changes mid-conversation, change the subject line! This is especially for those of you who never actually start a new email stream, but whenever you want to email someone, you simply grab the last email from them and hit “Reply.” Change the subject line, please.
- DON’T use “Quick Question”.
Avoid that oldie-but-goodie in the subject line unless you want your recipient to shoot themselves. First, a quick question is never quick. Second, it’s generic and tells nothing. It’s much better for your subject line to say, “Question about my royalty statement.” Be specific.
- Remember that every time you send an email, somewhere a fairy dies.
Well, maybe not. But it should at least make us think twice about it!
→ Bonus: What about saying “thank you”?
The jury’s still out on this one. I think most of us are trying to avoid too many unnecessary emails, yet the courtesy of telling somebody “thank you” is a very good thing, and we don’t need to lose all our manners in this rush-rush digital world. If you want to send a Thank You email, go for it.
What are your pet peeves about email? Do you have ideas for making it more effective?
Rachelle Gardner is an agent with Books & Such Literary, looking for authors with long-term publishing potential. She represents Christian fiction and non-fiction, with a particular fondness for strong spiritual memoirs and books that address contemporary issues in Christianity. www.rachellegardner.com