Continuing my previous post today, I would like to focus on the issue of receiving a very large amount of email each day. Even if we have the ambition to control the e-mails and the information that reaches us, there will always be someone in our neighborhood who will not be very supportive of our initiative. Furthermore, no matter how carefully we develop our methods and processes, we can not avoid distortions. In some days the emails literally clog our mailbox. Even then, we should not depart from our personal standards and the rules we have imposed.
Consistently maintain order, and sooner or later you will succeed.
The first step should always be to keep up with email and communication and the organisation of the digital environment, so you can easily find what you need and quickly move to action (I wrote about it in my previous post, which you can find here).
Once you have put order and order and catch up, check out some of the ideas below and see if you can subdue the beast.
Rule 1 – The more emails you send, the more emails you receive
If you are the author of a large number of emails, you will surely get as many emails as you can. To prevent this, limit to the minimum number of messages you send, come more critically to their number and content, do not overstate their length, and you will find out quite quickly that to some extent you can control their influx.
My colleague gave a message to his team that he would not read emails that required a computer screen to scroll. This means that the information should to be short, synthetic, signaling the most important threads, not essays on the existential issues of this world. This is very disciplined but also laying down a code of working standards in the group.
At one PEPworldwide Institute in Europe, customers are advised to implement standards for internal mail correspondence with up to three-way correspondence exchanges:
Original email ⇒ answer 1 ⇒ answer 2 (end)
If the topic is so complicated and unclear that it requires long explanations or information, it is probably best to have a short phone conversation, to have a quick meeting, or to use an online messenger (many of them archiving conversations and can be reached in future as to note the conversation).
Rule 2 – Decide what you are accepting
Some companies have significantly reduced the number of e-mails through the use of Intranet portals, which are accessible to all employees, where they receive information that would otherwise be sent by e-mail. You can look at them from your own choice and in situations where we need information that is posted there. This way the information is not imposed on the recipients and time is saved on their involuntary reading and deciding what to do with the email.
Disk space and SharePoint are also good. It turns out that posting notes from meetings, to-do lists, or documents over which several people work at the same time reduces the email correspondence to projects, meetings, and other activities.
We still waste too much time getting unwanted advertisements. One way to reduce spam is to avoid mailing lists when visiting websites. If you are already on such a list, but emails coming out of it are no longer read by you, but they still take valuable time to remove them, leave out of it. Do it right away! Every day take a few minutes to enter into each of these emails, find its link to cancel the subscription and simply do it. After a few days, you will see a huge difference in the number of incoming emails cyclically.
The “rules and alerts” feature, available in the most popular e-mail programs, not only allows you to eliminate spam. They can be set so that any copies (CCs) of emails will be directed to a special folder for later reading. In this case, however, it is worth setting a regular recurring reminder in the calendar to look at this folder, such as once a week, so that nothing important to us has fled.
And at the end of this policy – it’s a good idea to look at all the emails you receive. Are you needed you can always ask the sender not to send you a copy of your correspondence. I often find myself witnessing multiple e-mail exchanges between a group of people, just because I was in CC’s first email and all further discussion was in the “reply to all” mode. The general rule is to avoid using the “answer all” option unless indeed everyone on your mailing list wants to read your answer.
Rule 3 – Set standards
Apart from the “decide what you accept” principle, there are other corporate ways to significantly reduce the amount of information and facilitate communication. One is setting standards: When do I use e-mail?
E-mails should be replied within 24 hours. Meetings should be arranged sooner, and if the situation needs to be organised on the same day, instead of sending information by email (which may not be noticed by the recipients of our message) use the phone. The most important standards should be:
- Be sure to include the subject header in the headline
- One message should concern one case
- The message subject to action by the recipient should be preceded by an FYA (for your action)
- The subject of a message that needs only to read by the recipient should be preceded by an abbreviation FYR (for your reading)
- The subject of general news, information should be preceded by FYI (for your information).
There is no doubt that an inventive person will most likely find more practical solutions to the problem I am discussing. No wonder, today we can only count on our own persistence in minimizing the effects of endless and intensifying inflow of information. Try it out if you do not already use it, here presented ideas. Customize them to your liking. Do not lose your spirit if you fail. The only resignation would be a real disaster!
If you feel uncomfortable – I invite you to contact me!