Greeneville City Schools

Tips for better e-mail
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Author:  Larry [ Tue May 22, 2007 2:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Tips for better e-mail

Send less. Think hard before you use the "reply to all" and "cc" features, and use group distribution lists sparingly. By targeting your e-mails, rather than spraying them, you'll be more efficient and effective.

Quit boomeranging. Send 5 e-mails and you'll get, on average, 3 responses, most of which aren't necessary. If you eliminate just 1 in 5 of your outgoing e-mails, you'll instantly shrink the incoming volume, and save time on needless back-and-forth exchanges.

Stop - then send. Before hitting the "send" button, ask yourself: Is this information timely, topical, and targeted? Will it help the recipient do his or her job better? If not, skip it.

Be polite, up to a point. Not every e-mail requires a reply, especially if it's just a routine "thanks!" With the people you e-mail (and who e-mail you) most often, try including an acronym in the subject line like "NTN" (no thanks needed) or "NRN" (no reply needed) - a simple but effective time-saver.

Schedule live conversations. Instead of sending an e-mail that will initiate a long back-and-forth discussion, try scheduling an in-person or phone meeting instead. You'll often get a lot more done in less time.

Strengthen your subject lines. Vague subject lines confuse recipients and make e-mails hard to locate later. One-word categories, like "Request" or "Confirmation," along with relevant information like dates or times, add clarity and context to your messages. Also, do NOT send email with a BLANK subject - many mail filters will delete messages with no subject.

Structure matters. Avoid sending a wall of words. Instead, start every message with a greeting of no more than 8 words. (For example: "That was an interesting meeting yesterday.") Then use the ABC method to divide your e-mail into 3 distinct sections: Action (stating your purpose), Background (presenting your key points), and Close (clarifying the next steps).

Save purposefully. Searching for an old e-mail can eat up untold amounts of time, so be picky about what you save. Ask yourself: What are the odds I'll need this information later? Could I get it just as easily from the Web or somewhere else? Is it important to what I'm working on - really? You'll save less and find more.

File smart. You might have several overlapping e-mail folders, so "Stuff from the Boss" could contain anything from a performance review to a lunch invitation. Instead, create a smaller number of folders and label them according to content (not sender or some other criterion). You'll file and find information faster.

Coach - or suffer. Alas, sending better e-mails yourself won't guarantee that others will follow your lead, unless you ask them to. "Offer your frequent senders a few really good tips," the authors write, "or suffer through their bad e-mails."

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