Become Master of Your Inbox

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Jeff Gilden

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No matter your job, the email inbox war is real.

Maybe you’re winning and your inbox is at zero — and not only have you read your emails, you’ve responded to or taken action on all the ones that actually required your attention.

Or… maybe it feels like every single one of the approximately 205 billion emails sent each day are there waving their little Pavlovian notification flags, screaming “read me,” and you just want to reach for the delete key.

We get it. 

Email has become ubiquitous, taking the place of formal business letters, memos, and face-to-face communication, but there are a few things you can do to master email etiquette and help your important messages not get lost in the onslaught. Whether you’re reaching out to investors, vendors, research associates, or upper management, keep these tips in mind.

Be Clear
Communicate critical details without complicating your message. Give your email a subject line that indicates its content and can be found quickly i.e. “Executive Leadership Development Proposal” versus “Meeting.” Whether setting establishing a project deadline or inviting employees to the company picnic, remember the basics of who, what, when, where, why, and how. If there is an item requiring action from the email’s reader, place the action item on a new line — not buried in a paragraph of text.

Be Concise
There’s a time place and manner for everything, including the perfectly-crafted message and the bulleted list. Consider which words actually add value to your email and which are unnecessary filler. For an overview of concise writing, visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab, and pick up some Plain Language tips.

Be Courteous
It can be difficult to infer a person’s tone through email. Be polite and avoid phrases and actions that may seem passive-aggressive. For example “circle back” may read as micromanaging while copying management when not needed implies wanting a paper trail or trying to get the recipient in trouble. Also pay attention to your signature. There’s one word that gets the most responses — thanks.

Be Timely
Need a response? Try to avoid sending emails that require action on Mondays and Fridays. Tuesday through Thursday early mornings or late evenings are best. If the response you need doesn’t come through, don’t let your message languish and a project stall. Research has shown that professional emails take 11 hours or more to get a response. After a business day or two, it’s easy enough to forward your original email to the recipient and ask, “Did you have a chance to see this?,” or you could even pick up the phone.

Now go out and put your upgraded email style to good use!  You might even consider emailing us.


1 thought on “Become Master of Your Inbox”

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