Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don't Be the Cause of Email Overload!

I can speak from experience. Long-winded emails are the stuff of horror stories...and in this case it is I who am the perpetrator! Ask my partners. They will gladly tell you.

And, of course, in the blame game I would have pointed the finger at them. "You guys didn't read the email I sent! It was packed full of information!"

The key here is "packed." Even I don't want to go back and read them for some tidbit of information. In the end, it all came down to me.

But, I've learned my lesson. Behold! The end of causing email overload!

1) Keep them short 
There are a number of issues with email these days, but the biggest issue is size. There are quite a few reasons for this, but I believe the biggest is that we use email to solve issues. Not only do we try to solve problems with email, but we often use email to call attention to a problem that only we are aware of!

This is counter-productive. For one reason, communication is not what you say, but what the other person perceives. And for anyone to perceive what you're throwing, they need to actually read it. Let's be honest: How many of you read those half page emails you get? I see that my partners are not raising their hands. Truth is, neither am I. Even with the best intentions, what usually happens is that I promise to read it later and then I never get to it. In the meantime, I will read about 40 Twitter posts!

So, keep your email short. Really short. Two to five sentences short! There's no reason for anyone to skim a short email. It's SHORT! People will read an email with a couple lines in it. And if those lines are important (and if they aren't, you shouldn't send the email) then you are more likely to get your point across.

2) Titles matter 
Title your emails and people will have less trouble finding something that they need to refer to. A friend of mine has most of her information in the title of her emails.

To: Geraud Staton
From: Laura Harnish
Subject: Let's get a drink on Tuesday the 24th
Body: You free?

Just like that. And if I ever need to to remember when we scheduled drinks, I can just type in a search for "drinks" in the subject line.

It's the same in business. If you need to schedule a meeting, put the title in the subject line of the email. Everyone will know what they are about to read, and everyone will actually read it.

3) Keep it to one topic 
Notice that I'm not telling you to limit the number of emails you send. Just the breadth of them. That means that if you have 3 topics to broach, then keep them separate. The more topics in an email, the larger it's going to get and the less likely your target is going to read it. If you need to find out about a due date, give information about the company meeting, and introduce the new employee, then do it in 3 separate, short emails. They will all more likely get read and your team will actually be more informed!

Got any other tips? We'd love to hear them

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