Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about email and how the answer to fixing email might be in how you handle the messages you send, rather than how you handle the messages you receive. There are five steps we can take to fix email. The first step we discussed was brevity and the second step was using better subject lines (you can read that post here: Step 2 to Fixing Email) .
The third step I wanted to talk about has to do with what you’re actually writing the email about. That’s right, the content of your message is always important.
We all know people who can cover three or four topics in a single conversational breath. They’ve got lots to share and you to share it with. While this might be fine when it’s time to catch up, it’s not that great for an email exchange. Following up to better subject lines, try and keep your emails focused on one topic or issue of concern. This makes it easier to file a reference email and gives you a clear focus for your next steps with an action email.
However, this is one of those “use your best judgement” steps. If you’re writing a newsy email to grandma then multiple subjects are okay. You’re catching her up on all that is your life. But in the business world, it helps to stay focused. A short, one topic email may be more likely to get a response than an email that jumps all over the place.
So what’s your next step? Before you send another email, take a moment and consider what the email is really about. Does the subject line reflect that? Is the content of the email just as long as it needs to be, and focused on one topic? If so, hit send!
How’s your email looking this week? Are you overwhelmed with incoming mail or do you feel like you’ve got it under control? Drop me an email (email@example.com) or comment here and let me know!
Don’t forget to join us next week for Step 4 to fixing email!
I picked up canned cat food at the store the other day. Looking at the shelf it always seems there is at least one can, if not a couple, that are in danger of losing their paper labels. I can just imagine getting one of those cans home, then having it sit on the shelf for ages because we don’t know what flavor is inside. Could be tuna, could be salmon, or maybe even chicken. Without a label, all we know is that it’s cat food.
Email subject lines are the same way. We’ve all seen those emails that hit our inbox and say ‘Zoom’ or ‘Deadline’ or even ‘Don’t forget’. At a glance how are we supposed to know what’s actually inside those emails until we take a moment and open them up to look? And every time we go to our email we have to open that message up again because there are no clues as to what is inside. Just like that mystery meat cat food.
That’s why I’m a big proponent of descriptive subject lines in your email. They allow you to quickly prioritize and categorize an email, letting you get back to your day that much faster. I’m talking about subject lines like ‘Zoom meeting at 7?’ or ‘Miller project deadline extended to Feb’ or even ‘Don’t forget to feed the fish’. See the difference?
I know you can’t control what other people put in their subject lines, that’s true. But who was it that said ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’? Don’t forget either, that you can sometimes change the subject line of an email before you return it. Help avoid the mystery meat emails!
Would you prefer to receive these tips in your inbox? Sign up for the Ilios Digital Organizing Newsletter.
When I talk about email management, I’ve had people ask me, “Are email folders necessary? Can’t you just use search to find what you need and keep everything in the inbox?”
Ask any two organizers, and you’ll probably get two different answers and there’s an argument to be made for both options.
Utilizing search can help you find an email quicker and more efficiently than digging through various folders. Locating everything in the inbox means there’s only one place to look. But…what do you do with action items?
Remember, all email is either an action item, a reference item, or a trash item. If you are keeping all email in your inbox, it’s easy for those action items to get lost among the trash and reference material. And if you get a lot of email, those important items can quickly fall below the scroll and out of sight often equals out of mind.
Which leaves you with utilizing folders to organize your email.
Using folders allows you to get your reference material out of your inbox and away from any action items that may be hidden. It also means that, when you do utilize search, you can do a focused search in one folder, rather than a broad search in all of your email. Having folders can allow for quicker retrieval of that one email you’re looking for.
But it does take time to create a folder structure – even a very general one – and it takes effort to process your email into those folders every day instead of just leaving them in your inbox.
So what’s the right answer? The answer is, it depends on you. I prefer a folder structure. Even a general one is going to help you organize your email and allow you to keep those action emails front and center. Yes, it’s a little bit of effort, but one I feel is worth it in the end.
Need help getting those emails tackled? Let me know and we can figure it out together!
Texas is in a deep freeze this week. For me that means a frozen swimming pool, frozen pipes, and rolling blackouts. It’s all kinds of not fun. Trust me when I tell you, I’m not Zoom ready by any means. My kingdom for a hot shower.
Because of the rolling blackouts, we have 15 minutes of power, then 30 minutes of no power. No power means no internet, which means no sending emails or checking Facebook. It also means conserving my laptop battery as much as I can by leaving it turned off unless I’m actively working.
But April, just use your phone! Of course…except AT&T is having trouble with their towers as well so no Internet there either. I know, bummer all the way around. I thought I left this behind when I moved away from Iowa.
So when I do get 10 or 15 minutes to work, I try to make sure I am being as productive as possible with my workload. This is when having my email organized becomes an asset. Instead of spending my precious time sorting and searching through emails for that one message, I can go right to what I need to work on. Then, I can knock out 4 or 5 email responses before the power goes out again.
Focusing on work right now is tough, but being organized helps me be super productive when I actually crawl out from underneath the blankets and cats. How about you? What’s your why for getting organized?
If you need help figuring out your why, give me a call and we’ll talk about it!
I visited my nieces recently. The 4 year old likes to play dolls and was thrilled about having a new playmate around. However, it was ‘Play!’ every five minutes we weren’t actively engaged in playtime. No time for auntie to read a book or watch TV. No, it was all play all the time.
Email can be like that too. When you’ve got notifications on your phone or computer, every time you get a new email there’s a little ‘bing’ that goes off and demands your attention. No time for getting anything else done when you’ve got email tugging at your attention. Kind of like a toddler tugging at your pants.
So what should you do? Turn off your email notifications! Both on your phone and on the computer. Don’t let email dictate your life. Set aside specific times during the day to check email and use the rest of the time to focus on other work. It can take some time to get used to, but your productivity will thank you.
Are you interested in detoxing your inbox? I’ve got a plan for that! Sign up today for a Discovery Conversation and we’ll talk about how to get your email under control.
Would you rather get these tips in your email? Sign up for the Ilios Digital Newsletter!