My custom is to use the time away from work at the end of the year to think about what I want to do differently in the year ahead. Among the topics that came up was e-mail, the bane of my life and perhaps yours as well. I get hundreds every day (and that doesn't include the SPAM).
Being a lifelong optimist I've decided to make e-mail less of a pain in my life, both work and personal. Being an occasional realist, I recognize that I have a limited number of options and they must focus on what I can do.
So, here's my plan for 2012 (with acknowledgement to Scott Belsky and Stever Robbins who supplied some of the ideas and got me thinking). See Disrupt Your Inbox and What you should never say in an e-mail
- Experiment with three-sentence emails when I need an answer from someone. (improve the likelihood that someone will actually read and answer).
- Start e-mails with action I want, Don't leave the reader guessing until the end.
- Use subject lines that intrigue the reader and actually invite them to open and read the e-mail.
- Take disagreements offline. There are volumes that could be written on this.
- Don't "reply all" unless everyone needs to be involved. How do you feel when you are one of 92 people copied on an e-mail that doesn't interest or pertain to you? Resist the urge, it's probably illegal.
- If you need to make several points and expect a response, use numbers for reference to reduce length, opportunity for confusion.
More on managing e-mail in a future installment.