We need to talk about your emails...
You know that person who says “I deal with at least 300 emails a day” - it’s almost a badge of honour. "Look how busy and important I am.”
Nope. I’m not impressed. I don’t think you are busy and important. I think you and others like you, are highly inefficient and time wasters:
No one gets 300 emails per day that have been sent to them directly or need any actionable follow up. Most likely, a big chunk of those are newsletters.
My biggest pet hate are those massive chain emails or company-all emails that don’t really share any valuable information. When I’m mostly working from home, I really couldn't care less if there’s some leftover sandwiches in a meeting room somewhere. Actually, I don’t care about stale, old, leftover sandwiches even when I’m at the office!
And then there’s those colleagues who just need to CC everyone in on every step of whatever their job is. Why?! And my absolute favourite (read: sarcasm!) are those who randomly add and remove people in email chains. A clear sign that the person is incompetent and has no plan on what he/she even wants to achieve with this email.
I really enjoyed the efficiency of email when I worked at Facebook. At Facebook you use Facebook (now called ‘Facebook at Work’) as a big part of your communication within the company. Your team will have a Facebook group, your division will have one, your location will have one, your specific products/services eg. HR, Facilities - you get the idea. You can follow groups as you see fit. If you want to be updated on the cake in a meeting room or what’s for lunch in the canteen you follow the culinary group. If you want the latest updates on your product development, you subscribe to that group. If you want to see what the Regional Sales team is up to, you follow that group. You can easily manage the information that you receive on a day to day basis the moment you log on to Facebook. Your inbox is mostly direct communication that you need to deal with. Not just random FYI notes.
A lot more companies these days see the advantage of this type of information sharing and use similar tools like Facebook at Work or Slack. (This is not a paid advertisement or endorsement by the way).
With all the blog posts and articles about time management and being efficient, I thought people must have figured out by now on how to do this better. But having had a chat with a friend this morning made me realise this is far from reality. She told me she had 154 emails to go through that day. I know she’s very efficient and competent so it wasn’t her fault but the new company she had just joined. So we talked about what to do to improve this situation.
The first thing that she’ll do while she is settling in is set up new rules in her inbox to get started.
One of the mistakes I made years ago is signing up to tons of newsletters. Well, some of them just found their way into my inbox. If you still have too many newsletters post-GDPR, why don’t you set up a separate email address for newsletters that you only need to check periodically. Great way of reducing spam. My newsletter inbox currently has over 47,000 emails. Probably not a good idea if that sort of thing bothers you though!
Ask colleagues who CC you into emails that you don’t see any value in, to remove you. It’s that simple really. Just ask them.
I’ve heard of companies that even ban internal emails once a week and people have to talk to each other instead.. Interesting concept, can’t see it working in the environments I used to work in though. However, I do love that some companies ban emails being sent out of office hours. You can still read and write your emails, but they can only be sent during office hours so employees don’t feel obligated to answer during unusual hours. And Monday mornings feel less stressful when you don’t see email conversations you have missed out on over the weekend by over eager colleagues.
Discuss email policy and etiquette with your team. Every workplace has slightly different requirements and priorities - what can you do in order to improve email efficiency?
Once you’ve come up with some great ideas, share it with the wider company. In a company-all email, obviously!
What email management tips have you got to share? How do you manage the information flow? Please share and help to make this a better and more efficient email world, with a clutter-free inbox!
This article has also been published on Thrive Global