Making Email Better – Part 1

EmailHellSwimming in Email
We are overwhelmed with the flood of email. They flow into our inboxes unabated like the ocean tides. We struggle to keep up, often ending the day feeling that we’ve only treaded water.

How can this situation get better? Technology solutions, like spam filters, have helped. But what about all the email that we legitimately receive? What can be done to stem the rising tide?

We are Them – A Dichotomy
The irony of our situation is that we’re doing it to ourselves. This is not the work of auto-bots. Other people are sending us email, and we are sending them email. Focusing on receiver-centeric behaviors – managing the inbound flow – can only help us so much. Receiver-centric efforts are like putting a bandaid on the problem.

A more effective and productive course of action is to focus on sender-centric behavior – showing people how to use email better as a communication tool. Doing this attacks the problem at its origin – the creation of email.

Better Mechanics & Better Messaging
Over the next two newsletters, we will look at twelve ways to improve email’s use as a communication medium. The suggestions fall into two categories: Better Mechanics and Better Messaging. Each suggestion is assigned a question to help guide us through its implementation.

  • Better Mechanics – three ways to use the email tool more productively
    • Don’t Hide Behind Email – Is an email the best method for this communication?
    • Minimize Use of Reply All – Does everyone on the thread need to see your reply?
    • Terminate Endless Threads – Have we thanked each other enough yet?
  • Better Messaging – three ways to communicate through email more productively
    • Good Subject Line – Does the subject line communicate the content of this email?
    • Meaningful Signatures – Are other ways to contact you in every signature line?
    • Rules of the Road – Is the body professional, clear and concise, with good grammar and spelling?

Focused Improvement Delivers Results
Give these suggestions some consideration. By improving our use of email, we will reduce the number of clarifications we need to send. We will also be demonstrating these skills to others, multiplying our benefits.

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