Email is still a relatively new tool. However, its power, for good or evil, is clear. To get the most out of email, and minimize its suckiness, consider the following five tips. Also, be considerate of your elders, who stubbornly retain many of the worst email habits. They were trained, after all, on V 1.0.
The first four come from an interview with Marilyn Paul, on Matt’s Idea Blog.
- Use subject-line protocols to speed communication: a.) No reply needed – NRN; b.) Thank you – TY; c.) Need response by date and time – NRB 10/30 3:00 pm; d.) Use subject line for whole message: Meet 10:00 10/30 Okay? END Mike: This is becoming standard practice, but don’t be surprised if an older colleague or –yikes!–your major advisor “replies to all” with a message “Yes, but when is the meeting?”. Don’t worry. She’ll only make that mistake, ohhh, five times or so.
- Keep e-mails short. Most should be no more than 1-10 sentences. Communicate your main point in the first sentence or two. Don’t make readers work because you don’t have time to focus.
- Don’t deliver bad news in an e-mail message. If it’s urgent, pick up the phone. Use tone of voice to indicate concern, but not anger. Mike: It’s easy to hide behind email. Don’t do it.
- After two rounds of problem-solving on e-mail, pick up the phone. Mike: Email is not a panacea. The more intractable the problem, the more you need human contact–and all the meta-information contained therein–to find a solution.
- If you can deal with it in 2 minutes, do it. Otherwise drag it to your Action, Hold or Archive folder and clear your Inbox. Just don’t forget to regularly plow through your Action folder.