But I can help you do it right!
As Millenials, email is a staple in our lives, and as young professionals we have no idea what the world was like before email. As such is it our #1 method of sharing information and communicating quickly at work. This is problematic for several reasons:
- People don’t know how to do email right
- People really should learn how to TALK again
- You tend to get things done faster in person
- Email often times fails to properly convey tone
These are pretty obvious reasons, but despite how obvious they are people still fail miserably at email. So today I’ll share with you some of my tips on how to do email right, and as an upfront bonus I’ll share with you the best way to get your mailbox off on the right foot!
How to do email right:
The first step is that you have to be organized. Hopefully some people already do this, but in my experience, I’ve seen a lot of folks who do not. Ever email someone and they take EONS to reply? Chances are they are bogged down in their inboxes. 13,000 emails in your inbox is a lot to manage, and chances are if you do not have a process down, you’ll miss important things. So get organized!
Please see the above example of my own inbox. You’ll notice that my inbox is empty. Correct, it is empty. To the left you’ll see I have several folders within my inbox. I have an Action folder with M-F & Next Week subfolders, a Project Support folder, a Reference folder, a Someday Maybe folder, a Waiting For folders, and a few others that are specific to me and my job. There are more sub folders in many of those folders of course. The important thing to note in this process is that once you set up your mailbox folders, you need to file away all emails in your inbox accordingly. As emails come in, if it is an email that can be answered immediately, ANSWER IT, if not, file it where it needs to go. If it needs to be handled Tuesday, move it to the Tuesday folder. Once that email has been addressed, move it to your project support or reference folders.
Every morning you should take 10-15 minutes to completely clear your inbox. Work from your daily folder instead. Weekly check your “Someday Maybe” and “Waiting For” folders for regular follow-ups. I find this method extremely helpful in keeping me organized, and also taking off a chunk of my work everyday. I no longer feel like I have 50 million emails to answer, and I’ve prioritized them throughout my week.
The fist time you do this will take a while. So block off 45 minutes to an hour on your calendar to set yourself up right. Trust me, you’ll get that time back!
Once you’re organized, there are a few other tips I wanted to leave you with.
- Understand that your email may be shared/forwarded in it’s entirety. If you send an email requesting information, please know that the person you’re sending it to, may simply forward it as is to others who may have the answer. So please avoid emails such as the following:
- “I need to know the status of Project XYZ as I have tight deadlines that I am working with. SoandSo Smith was the last person to touch the project and we all see where that got us, so I’m now trying to handle all follow ups”
- While it may seem mild, the person you’re emailing may forward it to SoandSo Smith or a broader group including SoandSo. Just be careful. Also, don’t send quirky emails, those too may get forwarded.
- Treat emails as memos. Just because it’s a quick communication tool doesn’t mean that it should not be professional. If emailing a peer that you work with often, that’s one thing, but typically I stick to memo format when sending emails. State the objective, state key points and necessary information, close with a request for action.
- Given the above, do not forget to keep it brief. If emailing up the chain, know that your managers and executives are busy. Get to the point. Memo format helps with this.
- Only be casual when you are SURE that you can be casual. Even then, avoid the use of emoticons. I’m guilty of doing this sometimes because I don’t want the other person to misread my tone. However, I have only done it with peers. Similarly, calm down on the exclamation points, another thing I’m guilty of overdoing.
- Remember that what is emailed is always on the record. This one is a big no-brainer but the news cycle will show you that people ignore this all the time. If you are not comfortable with the world seeing it, don’t email it. Practice careful communication.
I hope this helps! Above all else, please organize your inbox. I cannot tell you how much your productivity will increase once you do!
P.S. if you company offers the Leadership on Paper™ course, TAKE IT. It will help you quickly realize your written mistakes!