Apr 152013

Here are three more tips for email. (The first three are here: Three Tips on Managing Email.) As before, your mileage may vary.

(1) Don’t assume that you should respond to an email with another email. A phone call or in-person chat might be more efficient and effective. In some cases, the precision of writing is worthwhile, but in many cases, you’re consuming too much time in writing — and asking others to consume too much time in reading. Or, in the case of conflicts, you can seriously worsen the conflict by miscommunication, particularly in tone.

(2) Be ruthelessly purposeful about your email communications. Identify the purpose of every email you write before you begin writing — and then write the email according to that purpose. Don’t just write a reply in order to get another message out of your inbox. (Yes, I’m guilty of that on occasion!)

(3) If an email requires some action of you that you can’t completely in two minutes or less, create a task for it in your task list. Don’t let it languish in your inbox as a reminder; it’s too likely to be missed, and it just clutters up your inbox in the meantime.

Now, I’m off to go plow through my inbox… hopefully with all due care and purpose!

Note: I published a version of the above commentary in Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter a while back. Subscribe today!

  • William H. Stoddard

    The advice is good, but I want to note that your point (2) implies a corollary courtesy on the part of the sender: Never send an e-mail without making it clear what action you are asking for. As my girlfriend used to say from her experience in sales, Ask for the order! (Of course, “FYI” or “I thought you might like to know” implies that no acknowledgment is necessary—but I think it’s good to make that explicit.)

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