Ten Top Tips for Email

Love it or hate it email is very much part of the world of work and a source for many of considerable stress. It is possible to tame email by following the simple ideas listed below and make it a powerful business tool again rather than the bane of your life!

1. Don’t Check Mail Every Few Minutes.
It is much more efficient and you’ll stay more focused on your current work if you’re not constantly checking for new mail. Set aside set times to deal with e-mail, like any other scheduled activity - you will definitely gain efficiency and reduce the stressful feeling that you have to respond as soon as e-mails arrive.

2. Get rid of the rubbish first
Much of what comes into our in-boxes needs no reply, needs no action taken, and much of it doesn’t even need to be read. Looking at headers, who the e-mail has come from, if it has been sent to lots of people are all ways of deciding on the importance and relevance of e-mails.

3. Act Now
Once you have looked through your messages, respond to them immediately - leaving them until later inevitably means that the numbers build up. The more daunting the task of wading through hundreds of e-mails needing dealt the less likely you are to do so. By replying to your messages immediately, you will find it to be less of a problem than trying to respond to many all at once.

4. Have a system

If you really can't deal with e-mails immediately flag them for later action. David Allen's GTD system is worth considering as a way of prioritising the things you need to do but even if you don't want to use someone else's system have your own! The important thing is not to use your email inbox as a todo list as this gets very unwieldy very quickly.

5. Be brutal
Most of us are reticent about deleting e-mails but if it is a matter of survival you need to do it. If you have thousands of e-mails in your in box there is no way you can keep track of them and you aren't going to get around to doing anything about most of them anyway so you might as well delete them and relieve the pressure!

We all contribute in some way to the problem of e-mail. The easiest way to bring about change is to begin at home. Adhering to good e-mail practice yourself sets an example which other will hopefully follow.

6. Use the Subject line to get the reader's attention.
Always put in a subject when sending e-mails – this allows the recipient to quickly assess the content for relevance. Replace vague subject lines with better hooks. The subject field is like a tagline in newspapers – the better it is written the more likely the e-mail is to get read

7. For info emails use formal language and end messages with "No Reply Needed" to discourage responses.
The tone and style of our language when writing e-mails can affect whether we get lots of responses or not. When appropriate, making it clear that your e-mail is a statement rather than the starting point for a discussion can reduce the number of tit-for-tat e-mails that ensue.

8. Don't reply to every message
It is not necessary to reply to every message - especially with those one word replies... like: Great, Cool, Thanks, Beauty etc. Those short, sometimes meaningless, replies are often only contributing to the recipient's email overload.

9. As much as possible, reply only to the sender.
Overuse of CC is one of the main causes of e-mail overload. Only send email to people who have to see it. If you feel you really must copy mail to others use BCC so that people don't feel inclined to be seen to reply by the other people copied on the original.

10. If someone you know sends you messages you don't want (like hoaxes or jokes), ask them very politely to stop.
Seems obvious but if someone is inadvertently contributing to your stress levels by filling your in box then it is better that they know.