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Effectively managing email continues to be a struggle for many agency staff. Unfortunately, email is the most significant productivity drains in an agency today. In past TechTips, I have talked about many different strategies you can use to regain control over your email inbox.
One strategy is to learn how to write better emails. Improving the emails you send can significantly reduce the emails you receive and make it much easier for you to respond. Here are seven suggestions that are simple yet can be very useful:
1. Include only one request per email.
This may sound counterintuitive because you may end up sending more emails. But multiple requests slow things down. When you only have one topic in an email, the individual can reply to that email with the information you need. When you make multiple requests in one email, the recipient may need to keep that email longer in their inbox so they can answer each of the recommendations you have made.
2. Use a subject line that reflects the topic and urgency.
Most people will scan the subject line to get an idea of how important and urgent your email is. By putting the topic and the urgency in the subject line, you will help them prioritize when and how fast they need to answer your email.
3. Get to the point quickly.
The first sentence in your email should be a clear explanation of the request you are making. Any description of the reason for the request should be included in subsequent paragraphs.
4. Keep the email as brief as possible
You are trying to help the individual you send this email to respond to your request or provide the information you need as quickly and efficiently as possible. Keeping the details as brief as possible will help them save time and hopefully provide you with a quicker response. A few people are using the 5 sentence rule.
5. Provide “if-then” options.
If there are multiple possible outcomes or ways to provide the information, then give the recipient a list of the options that you know are possible. They then will be able to choose a different option without having to reply and ask for additional information. This will cut down on the number of times that they need to request more detailed questions.
6. Don’t send “me too” emails unless necessary.
This is especially true when sending emails to a group of people. It is very annoying to read a string of emails that all say “me too!” This applies to “thank you” emails also. I seldom send a reply to an email to thank the individual.
7. Proof your emails before sending them.
To help you have time to proof your emails, you may want to set up your Outlook to not automatically send emails immediately. Or save your emails as a draft and let them sit for a few minutes before you click send so you can reread them to make sure they are saying what you intended. This will cut down on the number of questions and/or clarifications you may have to deal with later.
Email is a great communication tool — when managed well. I hope these tips will help you write better emails and be a step toward regaining control of your email inbox.
What other email management tips have you found helpful?