May 18, 2016
We all know for a fact that while emails are essential to any workplace these days, these are also considered the number 1 culprit when it comes to time wastage. Yes, emails and checking them can eat up a lot of your time at work. The habit of constantly checking emails, replying to them, and stopping work that is in progress just to shoot someone a reply has become one of the top reasons why some work gets delayed or does not get done on time.
While emails are indeed a necessary tool for communications, these should not become the reason why work does not get done. Emails are still important to what you do, but in order for these to not become detrimental to getting things done on time, there should be some email and communication rules put in place. These rules will help regulate the number of times that people in your organization check emails and act on them, thereby reducing the interruptions that occur in the middle of tasks.
Make sure subject lines inform people of the main purpose of the email – people often end up opening their emails in the middle of doing something to find out whether it is an urgent missive or not. If it is not something that they need to act upon at that very instance, they will have already wasted a lot of time simply by opening and reading such an email. Why? Well, opening and reading the message takes but a few minutes, but getting back the train of thought or the groove they got themselves into with their current task takes a bit of doing.
Labeling your emails as Urgent, FYI, and such will tell people what level of urgency your email has. Terms like Rush, Action Needed, Important and the like will help people know whether they should open an email immediately or not. It may also help to set levels for these subjects in terms of urgency. For example, for really urgent stuff that needs to be done right away, Rush or Urgent may be used. Second level importance items may be labeled Important and Action Needed. Those that require only to be read can be tagged Must Read and FYI.
Have them practice the art of selective CC – some people tend to CC everyone on their mailing list when they believe an email that they are sending is extremely important. Copying everyone on an email even when it is not really necessary that everyone knows about whatever information is being shared just creates more time wastage for the workforce. Selective CCing is needed and should be enforced, and this can be done by creating guidelines for the sharing of such emails.
Teach people to email in a short and concise manner – some people take email writing to be a form of expression that shows people how eloquent or intelligent they are. This is not necessary and should be avoided. If there is something to be said in an email, these should be done in a concise and quick manner. In other words, people should get straight to the point when they email others. If an explanation is required before any request, the explanation should also be short and concise and not too wordy or overly descriptive.
When things are really urgent and important, the phone should also be used – if something requires urgent and immediate action, apart from emailing and using the right subject term, a call should also be made to ensure that all recipients are made aware of such an email and how imperative it is that they act on it. While the subject may give a person a clue as to the importance of an email, some people may be too engrossed in what they are doing at the moment to actually notice an incoming email. Calling will get people to act immediately and to take notice of the urgency of the message.