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How to Reduce the Amount of E-mail You Receive - Several Tips

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Marsha Egan photoPeople complain about all the e-mail they receive, and how much work it is for them to handle. And it is true, the number of e-mails being sent is definitely on the increase.

The reality is there are quite a number of things that you can do, personally, to keep your e-mails to a minimum. Here are a few tips:

Be very clear. By making sure that the content of your e-mails is very understandable, you can avoid people e-mailing you with questions. Taking a small amount of time on the front end to read through the e-mail you are about to send can go a long way in avoiding a return question.

Make the subject line detailed. By including detailed information in the subject lines, your recipients will be able to sort and respond with the right priority. The detailed subject line will also help YOU sort and handle responses because you know exactly what the item entails.

Use only one subject per e-mail. The reality is that most people skim. If you put in two requests, there is a strong likelihood that only one of the requests will be responded to. It is more effective to send two e-mails with different subjects, than to incorporate two subjects into one e-mail. This practice is also helpful for people who want to file the messages.

Place the main point, assignment, or request in the first two lines of the e-mail. People have a tendency to build up to a conclusion when they write; this tendency makes it very difficult, at times, for readers to figure out what the main issue or request is. By putting your main point in the first two sentences, you can avoid misinterpretations and get readers focused on exactly what you want, right from the get- go.

Copy only the people who read or need the message. For every extraneous person copied on an e-mail, you have potential to receive a response. Not only are they getting extra e-mail, but it is likely that they will return with a response.

Resist getting involved in threads that are not related to your work. It could be that the sender copied you extraneously on an e-mail. Before you respond, consider its relative importance to your position and your work. Once you respond, you have put yourself in the game.

Place only one name in the subject line, if assigning work. When multiple names are shown in the subject line, the recipients many times assume that is the other person who will handle the work. This is a great way to get nothing done. By assigning one person to the subject line, it is very clear that you are expecting that person to respond. And, oh by the way, if that person is the wrong person, he or she will tell you very quickly.

Send less e-mail. While this may seem a no-brainer, e-mail begets e-mail. Sometimes it is better and easier to pick up the phone, or to just not respond.

Have a detailed signature line. By having all of your contact information in the signature line every time you send, you will enable the proper form of communication. As an example, someone may want to call you, but not have your telephone number. So, they will respond to your e-mail instead. A complete signature line will save others extra work.

Use voting buttons. If you need to ask several people a yes or no question, use the voting buttons that are in your e-mail program. This program summarizes the responses, and reduces the amount of time you need to spend coordinating the information.

Make it a group standard to use the electronic calendar. When everyone places all of their appointments in the electronic calendar, it makes it very easy for people to schedule meetings. This avoids e-mails going back and forth with questions such as, "are you available next Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.?"

Avoid controversial or argumentative e-mailing. When you engage in an emotional discussion via e-mail, the e-mails will fly. And, most likely, they will get more heated. Emotional issues should be handled by a phone call or, by a person to person meeting.

Create a company or group blog or chat room. When you are going to be requesting feedback and opinions, a blog or a chat room is much more effective at showing each person's feedback all in one place than trying to coordinate opinion responses from multiple respondents.

While each one of these may save only a small amount of time, or may reduce your e-mails only by a few, collectively, they have potential to help you control the actual number you receive. E-mail is here to stay; the sooner you develop productive habits regarding its use, the more time you will have for what is really important in your life.

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, Inc., a Reading, PA based professional coaching firm. She is a certified executive coach and professional speaker, specializing in leadership development and can be reached at or visit .



Published - May 2010

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