Here are the seven things to consider if you want to take charge of your inbox and regain control of your communication.
Remember that email is addictive
Unless you’re waiting for a specific email, checking your inbox every minute could be a sign that you’re addicted to email. This doesn’t mean you need to cut it out altogether, but you do need to have strong boundaries to keep it under control. Avoid the temptation to constantly check to see what’s hit your email inbox. Even a brief glance can end up taking more time than you anticipate and distract you from what you should really be concentrating on. Have specific times set aside to check and respond to email. It could be several times a day or even once an hour but try to ensure that outside those times your attention is wholly elsewhere.
When you do read your emails, read them properly
Many people scan through an email when it first arrives and then several more times as procrastination gets in the way of dealing with whatever issue it has raised. Avoid this by reading the email properly once before dealing with it straight away yourself, turning it into a specific task for another time, or delegating responsibility.
Use the subject line well
When writing or responding to an email, take the time to write a decent title in the subject line. It should ensure the email gets the correct attention and is correctly prioritised. If you need a reply by the end of the day, say so – in the subject line itself. Be concise but direct, and let the recipient know what to expect. They will be more able to deal with the task in a timely manner.
Don't bury the lead
Even with the best subject line in the world you still need to sell your email’s purpose with a good ‘top line’. Just one or two sentences which set out the action required and the importance attached to it. You should be communicating why the recipient should care and what you need from them. After a single reading the recipient should know what you want and when you want it by.
Keep it brief
No one likes long emails. No one. They are overwhelming and suggest the recipient needs to respond in kind meaning a reply is much more likely to be put off. Brief, focused messages are much more likely to elicit prompt and focused replies. If you do need to send a lot of information make sure it is digestible with clear sections and headings.
Emails produce more emails. Send fewer and you will receive fewer. If there is a small issue that isn’t urgent can you wait and group it together with another problem to avoid sending multiple messages?
Pick up the phone
One of the best ways to manage your email is to avoid using it altogether when possible. It can often seem like we have no time to talk and yet we then spend precious minutes crafting emails to deal with something that could be said out loud in 30 seconds. If you are seen as someone willing to talk rather than type it will mean you are bothered by less written communication as people make a quick call instead. As useful as email is, it can never convey as much meaning and nuance as a conversation. A quick call can also be used to set up a much more focused email exchange and cut out a lot of back-and-forth preliminary messaging.