The statistics related to email are startling. Over 90% of the world’s email traffic is useless SPAM. It takes less than 5 minutes for a brand new, never-before-used email address, to receive its first SPAM message. Viagra anyone? The average office worker receives approximately 75 emails per day – that’s after filtering tools have done their dirty work.
Email has also had a major influence on socialization in the workplace. In the past, employees would typically come to visit a manager’s office and talk in person. Nowadays, individuals have no problem at all in rifling off emails to their colleagues in the next cubicle! I offer you the following 6 ways to make email work smarter for you:
1) It is very important that your tone reflect your message. I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE YELL AT ME! Do not capitalize letters to denote emphasis because most people don’t respond well to aggressive communication. Furthermore, be sure to use a spell-checker. You don’t want someone to characterize your intellect by evaluating your spelling.
2) Use the prioritization function effectively with your work team. If you expect a response in hours, send a message with high priority. Assign normal priority to a 48 hour response and low priority to an email you just want someone to skim.
3) Setup “rule wizards” so that when messages arrive they turn a certain colour, or make a special sound, or are filed in a custom folder. You can even setup a rule wizard to have messages from that certain person go straight into the trash!
4) You should also use descriptive subject lines. For example, if you are working on a new marketing plan, every email that is sent related to that project can have the letters “MKTPLAN” in the subject line. That way you can setup your rule wizard to seek out those particular emails and file them in a specific folder that you create.
5) You can also cheat to type faster. This time-saving trick uses the “autocorrect” function typically found within your email program’s spell checker. If you tend to send a lot of standard replies or use standard phrases, you can program this function to use small code words to replace much longer paragraphs. For example, type “weekend” as a substitute for “I am planning to leave town for the weekend and will not have access to my computer.”
6) The final recommendation is to make sure that you and your colleagues embrace “receiver analysis”. This means that you should send information in a customized way so that the receiver has an easier time of absorbing it. For example, when sending a very large document, it’s best not to send it as an attachment. A better alternative is to send the location of the file instead. You can save the file on a shared drive or on the intranet and provide your recipient with the location or URL. That way, they can go and open the document if they wish. I would also take this one step further and provide a content summary or better yet, the actual page number you want the recipient to review. This way, you don’t have to waste time opening up a very large document to review hundreds of pages when there is really only you need to focus on.
Dr. Nick Bontis is a professional speaker, management consultant, and award-winning business professor at McMaster University (www.NickBontis.com).