Putting Words, Images and Ideas to Work
In a recent blog, I mentioned a few time management tips regarding Emails, and now I’d like to provide a few more.
1. Proper Use of the To and CC Fields:
Try to limit the number of people you are writing to — if multiple people get the same request, and all are asked to do the same thing, more than likely they’ll all ignore it, thinking someone else is handling the request. Or worse yet, more than one person will take the time to respond to the exact same issue — wasting time for all respondents. (And after they’ve done that once, don’t expect much help from them the next time you ask for something.)
If you must include multiple people, save the “To” field for the person or people who you expect to take action on your request; use the “CC” box for those who are merely being kept in the loop. Viewing whether I’m the “To” or “CC’d” person helps me determine how quickly to open and read that Email.
2. Subject Line:
Of course, using a good subject line is helpful.
Further, when responding to an Email, I often update the subject line, rather than just hitting “Reply”. For example, if multiple people have been asked to review the same thing, and the original subject line was “Request for Review”, I might write “Request for Review — Suzy’s 2 Cents”, keeping the original subject-line wording so the thread can more easily be found, but showing that it’s an update. When threads go on for several rounds, I often number them, such as “Suzy’s 2 Cents – 1”, “Suzy’s 2 Cents – 2”, and so on.
Or, if several different topics have been addressed in one Email, and my latest response covers just a portion of the original request, I might write “Request for Review — Trade Show Update”, again, keeping the original subject line wording, but indicating specifically what one thing I’m writing about in this response.
3. Thank You Notes:
This one is a bit thorny. While I firmly believe that people should be thanked (and even wrote a blog about that very topic), I don’t necessarily believe it’s necessary to respond with an Emailed “thank you” for every little thing. Certainly if it took some effort for the person to research and respond to you, yes; and always if it’s a customer, vendor and so on. But often, if just an office colleague, who I can thank when I see them in person, later in the day, I skip the Emailed note of thanks… as it just wastes my time and theirs. You may disagree, but that’s my viewpoint.
4. Using the “Preview” Mode Under “View”:
It probably goes without saying, but the Preview mode allows you to read the first few lines of the note to see what it’s all about, without having to open and view the entire thing. Great for prioritizing.
5. Organizing with Folders:
Not all Email servers let you do this, but if you have the ability to move Emails into folders, manually or by automatic rule, do so. Filing them in this way keeps projects organized so you can find them later. I especially like creating and using a “Read Later” folder so I can dump newsletters into it for future review, allowing me to clear out my Email Inbox, without losing stuff that I want to go back to at another time.
6. Boilerplate to Save Steps:
Do you find yourself answering similar requests over and over, or proactively sending out a similar note to several different people? Try saving the boilerplate info to avoid re-creating and re-typing each time. Let me give you two examples:
Responding to similar requests – I once sent out a press releases announcing that our company’s lab equipment had been used to produce the world’s first licensed gene therapy drug for use in humans, and the press release directed traffic back to our company website. Although we didn’t actually make the drug itself, we just made the equipment that was used in one part of the production process, I received dozens of inquiries from desperate relatives seeking information on how they could receive the life-saving cancer treatment for their loved ones. I had to sadly inform them that I was very sorry to hear that their relative was ill, but that I could only direct them to the manufacturer of the drug, who happened to be located in China. After receiving my third such inquiry, I saved my response in a Word template, and just copied and pasted it into the reply field, as needed. While I could have just copied and pasted from the previous email, saving it to a Word document made it faster to locate for future use.
(One side tip – if you also manage a website and find the same questions appearing repeatedly, you might consider adding the info to your site in a prominent place; and adding the Q & A to your FAQ section.)
Proactively sending similar info to multiple people – When sending out press releases, I always drafted individual notes to each editor, explaining why the release would be of interest to their audience, and usually also added a personal comment or two about them or me, while I was at it. Using boilerplate copy, that only needed minor tweaks for each editor, saved time. Of course, you might say there was no need to send a personalized note in the first place, but forging good relationships with the editors was one way of helping to increase chances of publication. (And, over the years, I made many lasting friendships in this way.)
7. Mark the Email “Unread”:
And lastly, if I do open the Email, but decide it’s going to take too much time to answer now and want to go back to it at a later time, I simply mark it “unread”, and/or add a flag or star (whatever the Email’s operating system offers), so I can quickly find it later and know that it still requires my attention.
So, how will you use your time today? Hopefully, wisely, and hopefully one or more of these Email tips will help you work more efficiently. What other tips or tricks do you use to optimize the time you spend on Email?