As a Professional Organizer, I’ve heard all sorts of excuses about email. Still, my all time favorite is when I called a new client and asked if they had received my email. “Oh, sorry about that, I declared email bankruptcy and deleted everything in my inbox. I do this about twice a year. If it’s really important they will get back to me.”
Of course he did this because his inbox was FULL, the IT department was yelling at him and he had no hope of finding anything in is his inbox anyway. So before you are tempted to hit delete, keep reading. Believe it or not, sending effective emails yourself will actually save you time and help tame your unruly inbox.
Dedicated Email for Business I know that the “joke of the day” emails Aunt Iris sends are funny, but honestly, they are clogging up your inbox. The biggest sources of clutter in our inbox are emails we get from friends and family. Personal emails are usually cute, but rarely actionable. Plus, because they are from loved ones, we resist deleting them. So there they sit, smiley faces and all. Keeping a dedicated business email means that clients come first and you can go over your personal emails on the weekends.
To Send Effective Emails is to Receive Effective Emails Start saving time by making your own emails as actionable as possible. This has two benefits. First, you raise your professionalism and credibility with your contact. Second, you subtly train your email senders to do the same. This can only help the greater good of all email-kind.
Action Oriented Subject Lines Want your contact to act on your email first? Make the subject line compelling or at the very least something where it is obvious that an action is required. “Action: Johnson Proposal” is good, and “Decision on Johnson Proposal due by 12/28” is even better. This also makes it easier for you to key word search and look for emails where a response is past due. And if you do send the rare email that is “Info Only” put that in the subject line too so they can read it at their leisure.
Anticipate Questions Who, what, when, where and why are crucial questions for reporters. They are also the keys to helping your contact make that decision or take that action as soon as they open your email. It’s ok to have an introductory paragraph, but after that, make it clear why they should read and answer your email sooner rather than later. Use unique formatting so the reader’s eyes can easily scan for the answers to these questions. If your contact has to read a novel, then guess what? Your email won’t be answered until later, much later.
One Subject per Email While it may be tempting to pile on all the things you need to say to your contact in one email, keep it to one subject at a time. That way you can track your email threads separately and it makes it easier to key word search at a later date.
When you combine subjects in a single email, most likely the email won’t be replied to as quickly. Worse yet, when you finally do get a reply, you may not get all the subjects answered. This happens quite often when people are responding via blackberry.
Call, then Email I know this is an article on effective emails, but sometimes it is just best to call. Is it a sensitive topic? Are emotions running high or is there room for misunderstandings? Then call your contact first. Hash out the specifics and then follow-up with a summary email of the agreements and next steps.
All of these tips will help you make your emails be more effective to the pleasant surprise of your customers and co-workers. They will save you time and hopefully head off the temptation to declare email bankruptcy on your own inbox! Just remember my motto: The Secret to Success is getting Started!
Sarah Kirkish is a Certified Coach and Professional Organizer with over 18 years of project management experience in corporate America. She helps busy professionals simplify their lives from the inside out with her down-to-earth coaching and interactive workshops. Follow her on Twitter: WorkLifeOrg or visit her website at: www.worklifeorganization.com