Email can be the biggest waste of time and lost productivity in business.
Because it is an essential tool (even my parents have email accounts and they’re in their mid-eighties), email can be a Gigantic waste of your time given everything you need to accomplish in a day!
Here are some simple facts about time spent on email:
According to an article in Inc.com, Workers in small and medium-sized businesses spend half the work day on “necessary, yet unproductive tasks, including routine communications and filtering incoming information and correspondence,” says a report from telephony company Fonality and research firm Webtorials.
Other findings of the study, which surveyed employees in December 2010 and January 2011: Workers spend more than a third of their time (36 percent) trying to contact customers, partners or colleagues; find information, or schedule a meeting and another 14 percent of an employee’s day: duplicating information (forwarding emails or phone calls to confirm if fax/e-mail/text message was received) and managing unwanted communications, such as spam or unsolicited phone calls.
So, it stands to reason that if you can get your email systems and processes in check, you can make much better use of your time during any given work day.
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Here are the most common bad email habits you need to beware of:
Bad Habit 1: Your Emails Are Too Long
Most people in business today have tuned out to long-winded emails. Studies have shown that you have about 4 seconds to capture someone’s attention. So, the best way to do that is to be brief in your communications. Of course, there will always be readers who will love lengthy, personal posts, but the more high-level and succinct you can make your emails, the more effective you’ll be. If you’re finding your email is too complex, consider splitting it into more than one communication, or consider whether a different type of communication would be more effective.
Best Practice: Keep emails simple, short and succinct!
Bad Habit 2: Your Subject Is Ineffective
There’s been a rising art of ‘tricky’ email subject lines… One of the worst offenders is ‘Hey [Contact Name], can we talk?’ – while it does feel personal and may slightly increase your open rate of a mass mailing, what you need to know is that the negative experience of that could be worse than the positive result. Instead of a vague or provocative subject line – do your recipients a favor and start with a clear and descriptive subject, so your reader knows what to expect upon opening.
For more effective subject lines, think in terms of ‘bottom-lining’ your email and distilling them down to one actionable task. Ask yourself: What is this email about? What is the action I want the reader to take? Is there a deadline date? Is it urgent or non-urgent? Create your subject line accordingly, so your recipient can give the email the right level of priority and attention.
Best Practice: Nail your actionable subject line in five or fewer words!
Bad Habit 3: Your Tone Serves YOU, Not Your Recipient
Oh if I had five bucks every time an email was misread or misunderstood! My husband has always said – email serves the ‘state of mind’ of the reader, NOT the writer… and how many times has this backfired for you?
It’s incredibly tempting to send email responses impulsively when you’re in a rush (or when you’re fired up about something). BUT, sending without thinking carefully about your audience, your topic, or how your message might be interpreted on the other end can really get you into lots of hot water and misinterpreted intentions. It’s INCREDIBLY important for you to be clear and always think of the person you’re “talking” to and what you intend them to FEEL after reading your email before you start writing.
A good rule to follow is to be MORE formal with everyone in an email than you would in person. It’s always best to err on the side of courtesy and respect, and AVOID TYPING IN CAPITALS which implies shouting, anger or aggression. (See???)
Best Practice: Write for your reader, not yourself!
Bad Habit 4: You’re Too Emotional
This is a piggyback on the habit above, but – it’s essential to check your emotions before you put something in writing. When I worked in HR, I actually saw people terminated from their positions for this mistake!
So, if you’re too fired up – do yourself a favor and write your intended email FIRST as a note in a text document… Then walk away, take a breather for about 15 minutes to and hour… cool off, then come back and re-read what you wrote – and revise it so it’s not as emotionally charged. If you’re still not sure – have someone else read it, knowing that they should read and revise your work to ‘de-charge’ the emotion… That will always be more effective.
Remember, once it’s written and you press send, there is now a paper trail. Emotions pass – that’s the good thing about them. Don’t sabotage yourself, your career, nor your reputation by letting your anger get the best of you.
Best Practice: Write it out first, take some time, then revise before sending.
Bad Habit 5: Hitting “Reply All”
Okay this one… it’s just, like – Oh My GOSH…. When will people stop replying all?
When you’ve you been copied into an email exchange that’s not relevant to you it’s pretty frustrating.
“Reply all” can be helpful when it’s needed to keep multiple people engaged, or when working on group decisions, but many people use it without considering the consequences. And you don’t want to become known as the person who always hits “reply all” because you’ll loose klout for appearing thoughtless, rushed and unprofessional.
So, it’s best to avoid “reply all” and simply respond only to the email’s sender. (Or consider whether using “cc” (carbon copy) or “bcc” (blind carbon copy) to include selected team members is more appropriate.)
Best Practice: Avoid ‘Reply All’ unless absolutely, positively necessary!
Bad Habit 6: Sending Emails Only
Email is quick, convenient and can easily become your go to communication method with your team, clients and family. However, it’s important to remember that email can also seem impersonal to some. If it is the only communication method you use, you risk losing touch with people if you rely on it too much. Don’t let it substitute for face-to-face or casual phone check ins.
Best Practice: Use email when necessary but not exclusively!
Bad Habit 7: You Don’t Review Before Sending
Proofing your emails (aloud) is one of the most important things you can do. It only takes a few minutes, and it helps you to pick up poor grammar, spelling mistakes and punctuation errors, which look unprofessional. Check your work for mistakes.
Also, most email providers use “auto-fill,” predictive text and “threads”, which increase the risk of you sending your message to the wrong person (or inadvertently including people in message threads who were not intended to receive messages.) This can be embarrassing, but it also means that your email might not reach its intended recipient unless someone flags up your mistake. More seriously, you risk distributing sensitive information to the wrong people, and damaging your organization’s reputation. So, always pause to review your email before you send it.
When you reply to or forward an email within a thread, make sure that all the messages contained within it are appropriate for the recipient. Ask yourself if the email contains sensitive information, personal comments or remarks.
Finally, don’t add the recipient to your email until the last moment. This ensures that you can’t accidentally send your message before you’ve finished writing it, have added your attachment, checked the email, and spotted any errors.
Best Practice: Review and read all emails aloud before sending!
Email is one of the best and most essential ways people in business stay in touch, communicate offers, and connect with each other today. Because it is an essential tool, it is important to use email effectively and avoid the biggest mistakes that can kill your productivity and waste your time.
Your Sanity Assignment
Which are your email foibles?
What is your worst habit, or one you consider a bad habit of others?
What are your best email practices?
Please scroll all the way down and share your comment below!