Email can be a convenient means of communication, but it can also add stress to our daily lives. Some of this is unavoidable. If you receive dozens or hundreds of emails on a daily basis, it’s bound to stress you out. But some people just don’t know how to email well. They consistently use poor email habits that only make email overload worse. Since email is such an important means of communication, you can’t afford to be one of those people.
6 Effective Email Habits You Need to Use
Your emails don’t have to frustrate your recipients or increase their stress levels. Here are 6 ways that you can avoid some of the most common pitfalls of email communications and make your emails as effective as possible.
1. Be Thoughtful and Judicious If You Hit “Reply All”
When you get an email that’s been sent to several people, you might be tempted to hit “reply all” to respond. But odds are, that isn’t necessary. You probably only need to reply to one or two people in the group. And a lot of the time, you don’t need to respond at all. No one wants to receive a dozen “thank you!” or “have a great weekend!” messages. These unnecessarily fill up an inbox and distract the inbox owner from meaningful work. Don’t become that person in your office. Be considerate of your coworkers’ time by pausing before you hit “reply all.”
2. Use Email for Tactical Execution
Be strategic about the times when you choose to use email over other forms of communication. Email doesn’t let you convey tone or intent. Since non-verbal cues account for over 80% of the way we communicate, this is a vital component that’s missing in emails. Without it, the margin for error with email is huge. You may end up unintentionally insulting or confusing your recipient.
To avoid these kinds of miscommunications, only use email for simple communications. When you have something complex to discuss, stay away from email. Use the phone or an in-person meeting instead. You’ll save time and be a more effective communicator.
3. Include or Attach Previous Messages
Sometimes emails can go days without being seen or responded to. By the time your recipient gets around to actually answering you, you may have already forgotten about your original message. The sheer number of emails that most people receive can make it easy for your email to get lost in the mix or for the recipient to forget the details of your conversation, even if it’s important.
If you don’t want this to happen, always include or attach any previous messages from an email thread. This way your recipient can review all the information in your past messages. Your recipient will have all the context they need to understand and respond to your email.
4. Be Thoughtful and Judicious in Your Use of High Importance
The high importance function exists to give your recipients a heads up that your email requires their immediate attention. But if you constantly label your emails this way, “high importance” becomes meaningless. Your recipient will start ignoring the label, and you won’t get the timely responses you need.
Use the high importance label sparingly. Ask yourself why you’re choosing to label something high importance. Is there a strict deadline? Are their high stakes involved? Does your recipient just not respond to emails very often? Remember that you can always use the subject line as another way to convey the importance of your email. Write your subject lines with specific details about the importance of your email. Your recipient will be more likely to understand the significance rather just a generic “high importance” label. And they’ll be happy that you aren’t overloading their inbox with high importance emails.
5. Spell People’s Names Correctly
No one’s going to read and respond to email (or at least not cordially) if you spell your recipient name’s incorrectly. If you’re unsure about your recipient’s name, title, or gender, do some research. There isn’t an excuse for getting these basic pieces of information wrong. If you do, you’ll drive a wedge between you and your recipient. They’ll be less likely to give you the response you want—if they give you a response at all. It’s more likely they’ll see that you were too lazy to spell their name correctly and then delete your email before they even start reading the body text.
6. Read Each Email Carefully and Answer All Questions
Many emails contain more than one question that requires a response from you. Don’t be that person who replies to an email but leaves vital questions unanswered. You’ll delay any kind of action steps that coincide with the emails and frustrate the recipient.
Make sure you’ve properly responded to all your recipient’s questions before hitting send. Even if you think you’ve touched on everything you need to, go back and re-read the email you’re responding to. Ensure that you are including all the information your recipient needs from you. This will help you be as thorough as possible and maintain a good relationship between you and the recipient.
When you put all of these good email habits into practice, you’ll have more effective email communications. Your recipients won’t be as frustrated with your emails, and you won’t feel as overwhelmed by your inbox. Go make the most of your emails!
Carson Tate is a renowned coach, teacher, and creator of the Productivity Style Assessment® with expertise in providing simple solutions that transform individuals’ personal and professional lives. Learn more about her philosophy and strategies for productivity by visiting carsontate.com.
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